Why Engineering Talent Shortages Are Getting Worse

Charmaine Vaz

UK employers across a wide range of industries, including engineering and manufacturing, are currently experiencing candidate shortages brought about by a variety of factors: IR35, the pandemic and Brexit have created a critical requirement for qualified Engineers in the UK.

One of the biggest impacts on the market is the number of European workers who had to return home due to the pandemic and found they could not return to the UK, as they had not applied for Leave to Remain before they left. This is a major setback for any organisation hiring engineers, as these EU workers would be just the right, sort after candidates to solve talent shortages. These are professionals who have already worked in the UK and have NI numbers, therefore can go straight into working in engineering jobs around the UK.

Currently, the UK Government has not provided any specific help for this overlooked group of EU workers. The only way they can return to the UK for work is to go through the laborious process of applying for a visa, which is not an efficient solution for addressing a talent shortage of the scale we are currently facing.

The government could be doing more to tackle this issue, especially by giving these workers a second chance to apply for leave to remain and return to the UK. This would be a start, but it is not a quick fix for the sector. The engineering sector must strategically find better techniques to bolster the talent pool.

The talent shortage has also been affected by IR35 tax changes that came into play in April 2021, which have dealt an additional blow to employers seeking engineering talent. Under the new IR35 rules, EU nationals who were working here a year ago will now likely be earning less money due to the higher tax they must contend with. In short, it has become too expensive for them to work in the UK, so they have moved on.

Lastly, some European workers disappeared from the market during the pandemic, due to the insecurity of their employment arrangements. Several EU workers who were engaged by large recruitment companies on zero-hours contracts simply lost their jobs, because these companies did not furlough them. Here at CV Consulting, we recognised the risk of losing workers if we did not offer a furlough, so we shouldered the additional paperwork to avoid this situation.

While these compounding issues present a significant challenge for employers looking to recruit, the good news is you do not have to tackle it alone. We are working closely with organisations to advise them on the best way forward and how to tap into the Engineering and Manufacturing talent market in this complex market.

Have you been impacted by the candidate shortage and need support in finding the right people for your business? Get in touch with our team of engineering recruitment specialists whose knowledge of the sector is second to none