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Drought of engineers in water sector, finds skills survey

Thu, 28 Jan 2016
Engineer at water plant

As UK employers struggle to fill skilled vacancies, increased numbers of experienced engineers are entering the jobs market but not in the water sector, recruitment agencies say. 

A report from non-departmental public body UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), published this morning, reveals skills shortage vacancies now make up nearly a quarter of all job openings, up from 91,000 in 2011 to 209,000 in 2015. 

The report, which surveyed more than 91k employers, reveals the situation is particularly acute for some sectors. More than a third of vacancies in electricity, gas and water, and construction are now due to skills shortages, with transport and manufacturing not far behind. Only in public administration are skills shortages below 10%.

Commenting on the findings, Lisa Greenhalgh, director at multi-sector agency Finlay Jude Associates, told Recruiter skills shortages are so acute in the water sector her firm has been asked by three of her clients to train raw recruits.

Greenhalgh explains since October her firm has been working with colleges and job centres to train these recruits. Shortages are improving as the first batch of trainees enters assistant engineer roles, she adds.

Alan Smith, experienced water industry professional and owner of specialist recruitment firm Water People, told Recruiter he has also witnessed this talent shortage. He blames poor succession planning as water firms have cut operation costs, resulting in fewer opportunities for talent within the industry to build a career.

But as some employers shed roles and others create them, talent shortages are improving in some sectors.

Martin Salmon, owner of generalist agency Senior Salmon, told Recruiter while his firm struggled to find blue-collar engineers six months ago, the situation has improved as some local employers have cut headcount and some continue to hire.

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