Despite the political rumblings that persisted throughout 2019 Contract Scotland experienced our most successful year to date for permanent placements within Engineering Consultancies in Scotland. With the promotion of Savanna Mitchell from Recruitment Resourcer to Consultant midway through the year, we were able to build on her existing expertise to help strengthen the team. Whilst there’s plenty to celebrate, our increase in placements actually masks a slight fall in new vacancies year on year, and the near chronic gap in skills in specific key disciplines proved a tricky challenge to overcome.
A wide variety of small-mid value commercial, industrial, retail and flatted residential developments drove much of the activity within the building structures market which performed well throughout the year. With tight project deadlines and the need to support the upcoming generation of Graduates, Senior/Principal Structural Engineers featured on the ‘want-list’ of most engineering consultancies. However, we continued to suffer the effects of the ‘missing generation’ of Engineers in the UK – those Engineers who graduated during the last major recession, meaning demand significantly outstrips supply. In addition, a shortage of SER Engineers has created a bottleneck effect within many design consultancies who struggle to have designs certified within the desired timescales.
Furthermore, the strong performance of the housing market continued to increase demand for skills in roads and drainage design for new development infrastructure. The fast-paced nature of this work in a busy market has left limited scope for developing the new skills needed with many consultancies focusing on a dwindling pool of experienced Engineers and Technicians. The fact that the developers also seek the same skillset within their in-house technical teams only serves to exacerbate the challenge.
There were no easy answers to any of these issues in 2019 The required skills simply don’t exist in the quantities needed, leaving many engineering consultancies with a delicate balancing act to pull off.
It is often assumed that our role as recruitment consultants is simply to provide the right CVs when called upon, but the reality is that filling vacancies is only part of what we do. As recruitment consultants, the first step in the process is to act in an advisory capacity, setting expectations and shaping the recruitment process to fit the needs of our clients. In 2019 we regularly focused on offering context and depth of understanding around the market forces affecting the demand for skills. We worked with clients, devising recruitment strategies to find workable solutions in a market where ‘readymade’ solutions are not available.
In addition, we’ve sought a closer understanding of our client’s growth strategies, gaining a more detailed grasp of where the short term and longer-term pressures lie within their team. This has enabled us to make sensible recommendations of good Engineers and Technicians when they arise. It’s no coincidence that we provided the most effective solutions to the companies who involved us most closely in their long-term planning.
We look forward to 2020 with a continued optimism. Many of our clients enjoyed full order books throughout 2019, giving them a solid base to plan from. Having made peace with the political uncertainty that persisted throughout year, most of our clients were able to recruit with confidence. As we move into 2020, this sense of confidence remains. We continue to work closely with engineering consultancies, identifying gaps, internal/external pressures and opportunities to grow whilst devising new resourcing strategies for the year ahead.