Engineering Recruitment Trends 2024
As we head into 2024, it’s time to discuss engineering recruitment trends that our team expects to see this new year.
But before looking into the future, let’s reflect on our predictions from the start of 2023.
The first prediction was that salaries would continue to rise. And this increase could be quicker than ever due to the scarcity of talent in the markets.
Salaries continuing to rise is something we saw in 2023. For example, we saw a 6% rise in advertised salaries for maintenance engineers in Leicester. And this jump was only between Q1 and Q3. It’s good to see that salaries are on the incline – albeit slowly. They did not shoot up as much as we predicted, but this doesn’t mean they won’t increase more this year.
Salaries still aren’t competitive enough within the engineering industry. With the skills gap only getting bigger, top talent within the industry is hunting for much more than the average salaries we uncovered throughout the year. It’s baffling to see that for some shifts, only a small percentage of companies are actually meeting the minimum salaries that engineers would even entertain. In Coventry, engineers said that £48k would be the lowest they’d accept for the 4 on 4 off shift. And a whopping 82% of companies in this area advertise a salary lower than this!
This leads us to our first prediction for 2024 engineering recruitment trends:
Salaries and Packages Getting More Competitive
And so our prediction for 2023 engineering recruitment trends somewhat rolls over into 2024. But that’s due to how competitive the market is, as well as inflation!
Obviously, some companies may not be able to increase their salaries as much as others. But they can elevate the package by putting in place some popular benefits (and making sure to shout about these in their job adverts). Increased pensions, enhanced holiday packages, competitive overtime rates, and private healthcare are only a few suggestions of what companies can do to make their package more competitive. And we predict to see a lot more of this in 2024.
Something else we’ve seen a lot of in 2023 is counteroffers. A poll we did back in 2023, revealed that just 10% of engineers would NOT accept a counteroffer. Companies should relook at their budgets and assess whether countering the counteroffer (by increasing the engineer’s salary) will actually save them in the long run. This goes hand in hand with our prediction. Companies may start to assess their packages more regularly. Hopefully implementing better packages for all engineers, therefore leading to increased retention.
When you think of competitive packages and salaries, it’s easy to assume that the big players always win. But you’d be wrong. We’ve seen a good few SMEs keeping up with the larger companies because their packages have remained competitive. Reviewing what you can offer to engineers is the key to staying relevant and getting that top talent in. So we’re expecting to see more of this and predict it will make an appearance in the engineering recruitment trends for 2024.
Automotive on the Rise Again
This time last year, we were experiencing engineers transitioning away from the Automotive sector. Which was a result of job insecurity in the industry that stemmed from fluctuating order books and difficulties sourcing materials. Towards the end of last year, our engineering recruitment team saw many engineers transition from the automotive to manufacturing/food environments. And expected to see this continue in 2023.
However, automotive has made a resurgence. For instance, Jaguar Land Rover massively increased their maintenance team, hiring over 100 maintenance technicians for the Solihull plant. So, we’re seeing firsthand that automotive is on the rise again and may continue in 2024. Making it our second prediction for the engineering recruitment trends in 2024.
Recruitment Speeding Up
Another engineering recruitment trend we’re anticipating for 2024 is the process speeding up… A LOT. We, as recruiters, know firsthand that engineers are getting snatched up left, right, and center. But some companies do not feel this sense of urgency. But to put it into perspective…
Engineers will have 5 opportunities now, instead of around 2 in previous years. So, if your hiring process takes longer than a week, changes need to be made. That is just too long. Recruiters may harp on about this, but top engineers are getting snapped up within a few days of their CVs being online.
Candidates really have a lot of options right now (It’s thanks to the skills shortage). It’s amazing for the engineers because they have so much choice. But when you’re trying to get an engineer on board, you really are battling against other companies. Our advice is to get things moving a lot quicker. Don’t procrastinate when you see an engineer that ticks all the boxes! Urgency really has increased, so we expect to see a realisation of this amongst the engineering industry. And companies leveling up their recruitment game as a result.
Greater Focus on Apprenticeships
Last year we predicted that we’d see engineering apprenticeships on the rise. Due to 2022 seeing an increase in engineering-related apprenticeships and the last report by Engineering UK.
However, in their latest report, Engineering UK revealed that these apprenticeships took a small hit in the past year. They decreased by 6.5%. And although this could be a lot worse, it isn’t what we wanted to see. Especially since apprenticeship stats were up in the 75,000’s back in 2016/17. Just take a look at the graph:
Apprentices allow companies to utilise the succession planning process to retain knowledge within the business, despite the retirement of some of the workforce (you can check out our blog on the succession planning stages here). Planning for every role within the business and implementing appropriate training will only benefit the company and its green engineers. Apprentices can shadow the time-served engineers from the very start of their careers and absorb all their knowledge to continue within the business and (hopefully) stitch up part of the ever-growing skills gap.
Another prediction for our engineering recruitment trends is to see more companies make a greater effort to keep hold of apprentices. We often see engineers come to the end of their time and not be put on proper wages afterward, which leads them to look elsewhere. Just think, you now have an engineer who knows your processes inside and out. To lose all that great potential and training would be a real shame. Essentially a waste of your time and money, having trained them up.
In the current situation, companies need to be doing all they can to keep their apprentices with them once they’re qualified. You never know, your next apprentice could be the next Team Leader in a few years’ time!
Focus on Soft Skills
Now this is a good one. And we are really expecting to see this in some parts of the engineering sector. Our maintenance team hasn’t seen this so much right now, but the technical team has some cracking examples as to why we predict soft skills to be an engineering recruitment trend focus in 2024.
Some clients have lots of questions heavily around soft skills. Before offering an interview as well as during the interview. One example that highlights the uprise in this is that a client recently turned down a candidate because he couldn’t answer this simple question:
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Soft skills are getting up there on the list of hiring requirements. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues to be the case and catches on more within this industry and beyond in the year to come.
Adapting to Automation
This is another biggie for the new year. Automation was something generally only seen in bigger companies and mainly Distribution/FMCG businesses. But now smaller manufacturing businesses are looking to reduce the need for operators and shift to automation to improve efficiency. This is controversial though, because it costs operators their jobs.
We predict to be seeing more and more automation coming through (as we can already see it implemented in a lot of businesses and sites). Unfortunately, with this, we should also expect to see companies wanting to scale down on the engineers on site. Which means redundancies. So, not necessarily a positive engineering recruitment trend in that sense. Thankfully though there are still more jobs than engineers at the moment (again due to the skills shortage) but in this instance we can use it as a saving grace.
Thinking Outside the Box
Our last prediction for 2024 engineering recruitment trends is that employers will be more open-minded with their new hires. Hiring people with Forces experience or with alternate qualifications than what has been needed previously.
This sort of leads on from our last point. Because, with automated warehouses pushing the boundary on salaries, manufacturing sites will find it harder to pull through good talent without thinking outside the box. And utilising alternative routes to build their teams.
With that, we predict to see more in-house upskilling. Whether that be PLC training or offering HNC/HND qualifications. As sites attempt to hold onto the talent that they’ve got, as well as provide these new hires with the appropriate skills for their team.
Recruiting in 2024 will see some changes in the manufacturing and engineering sector. Businesses will need to continue to adapt and go above and beyond normal hiring standards to find and attract engineers.
Keep up to date with our maintenance engineer hiring insights that we update every other quarter. The next ones will be coming out soon revealing our findings from Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 data. But for now, you can check out the recent reports in our toolbox.
Something that to push in 2024 is the recruitment marketing side of hiring. Which is part of our RPO hiring model. As mentioned, it’s important to highlight to engineers the benefits of working at your organisation (to stand out in hand with the salary package). We’re going to be working with organisations to help increase their presence within the current and upcoming generation of engineers.
The Brains Behind the Blog
Big thank you to our recruitment specialists who contributed to the inside knowledge behind our predictions for engineering recruitment trends in 2024.
Natasha Bates (Senior Technical Engineering Recruiter) – Tash joined to lead our technical engineering desk. With almost a decade of industry recruitment experience, she’s seen it all. Name a role within technical engineering… she’s placed it!
Matt Morson (Senior Engineering Recruiter) – Matt, started his recruitment career with us as a graduate. He bagged the Senior title after going above and beyond. His bread and butter is recruiting Maintenance Engineers in and around Warwickshire/Coventry.
Dannie Bridgewater (Engineering recruitment consultant) – Dannie became a Recruitment Consultant back in 2021. She has developed her recruitment skills and focuses on recruiting Maintenance Engineers in the East Midlands. Placing people for the right reasons and really getting to know their why.