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The Secrets to Finding Top Engineering Candidates

  • by: Adrian Mansfield
  • On: 21, Feb 2020
4 min read

Technology, compliance and increased awareness and legislation around modern slavery have made significant changes to recruitment processes in the past decade, and uncertainty around Brexit and international trade is further fuelling candidates’ desire for change.

22% of UK Engineering business leaders and 42% of Aviation business leaders listed skills shortages as their most urgent business challenge in the coming years. With skills shortages forcing many employers to change their approach to recruitment, how can organisations attract and retain the best talent?

5 Ways to Find and Hire the Best Engineers

1. Build Your Employer Brand

Branding is centred around how you market your company to potential employees. Branding isn’t just a logo, a colour scheme or even a website: it involves every touchpoint across every channel that a prospective candidate could possibly come across. Your brand image is conveyed by the ways you intentionally promote yourself, such as press releases and digital campaigns, as well as uncontrollable external conversation such as reviews and criticism that you receive and the ways you respond to them.

Recruiting in 2020 will require companies to put forward a compelling case to make candidates actively want to work for them. Building your employer brand means conveying your ideologies and values consistently and genuinely, tailoring your message to the wants and needs of each type of candidate you want to recruit.

When looking to appeal to the younger generations, millennials and Generation Z value autonomy and the opportunity to be creative and enjoy what they do, ahead of social events or nights out as company benefits. Younger candidates are attracted to organisations that match their worldview and personal beliefs: open and transparent processes, proactively supporting diversity and inclusion, and valuing employees as individuals with wants and needs. Work out where your company fits into the modern working landscape, highlighting positive aspects that match it and ensure these aspects are communicated effectively.

Employers can build a positive brand image by prominently leading with staff benefits and employee case studies in recruitment campaigns, and targeting each candidate audience segment on the channels where they naturally exist. For example, are your candidates on certain social media channels, do they read certain industry or trade publications, are they members of specific networking groups or do they visit particular tradeshows or events? Involving existing staff by asking for their feedback on current culture and working environment can provide insight into the image potential employees may have of the organisation, and changes that could be made to improve the employer brand.

2. Invest in Apprenticeships

Rising university fees and heightened job market competition are encouraging more students to take up apprenticeships after leaving school. Engineering is a particularly compatible career choice: trainees can learn practical skills and techniques whilst on the job and can go on to specialise in specific areas once qualified.

Apprenticeships catches potential Engineers at the beginning of their careers, meaning individuals can be trained up to the standards of the employer and their skills perfectly honed to the needs and aims of the business. Investing in employee training and development has overwhelmingly positive correlations with staff retention: apprenticeships are key not only to finding the next generation of Engineers, but keeping them to add business value for years to come.

Businesses can partner with local schools and colleges to recruit apprentices from a young age. Getting in contact with young people before they even begin to think about career choices, ideally before GSCE level, helps to raise awareness of the fascinating variety of Engineering careers that are available but that are usually not promoted in the education system. Correlating apprenticeship recruitment campaigns in schools with external industry events, such as International Women in Engineering Day, will garner further support from schools and reach diverse groups of young people.

3. Engage Diverse Talent Pools

A mere 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female – the lowest in Europe – which is driven by an underrepresentation of female engineering students. Just 15.8% of engineering and technology undergraduates in the UK are female, whereas one in three engineering students in India are female. The problem appears to start even earlier than University. Although there is now very little gender difference in the participation and achievement of girls in core STEM GCSE subjects, only 20% of A-Level Physics students are female; a number that has not changed in the past 25 years.

Other diverse groups are also underrepresented. Despite people of ethnic minority background making up 14% of the total UK population, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) talent is also underrepresented in the UK engineering industry. Although BAME students account for 25% of university engineering graduates, only 6% of UK engineers are from BAME backgrounds. The high graduation rates followed by industry underrepresentation suggests a variety of causes, including the lack of job opportunities specifically open to BAME engineers after graduation, and the ability of engineering businesses to effectively reach and engage BAME talent.

Existing female and BAME engineers are proving that they have the talent, but that their skills are not being harnessed by schools, universities or businesses across the UK. The proportion of UK citizens from ethnic minority communities is projected to reach 30% by 2050, signalling an expanding pool of potential BAME engineers who could provide the new skills that the UK engineering industry urgently needs.

A recent report from McKinsey evidences that companies that score highly for ethnic diversity are 35% more financially successful than their competitors, with gender-diverse companies outperforming their competitors by 15%. Diverse and inclusive companies are better equipped to understand and engage their global customer base and more successful in attracting and retaining talent from diverse groups. For the future innovation, growth and success of the industry, engineering businesses must find ways to become more diverse, starting with getting more young people from diverse backgrounds into engineering.

4. Widen Talent Pools to Include Other Industries

Most technical career paths involve skills that can be adapted to other similar industries: for example, Aircraft Mechanics can upskill to become adept at building wind turbines. Highly skilled Engineers will benefit from the same things – flexible working and shift patterns, opportunity to travel and career progression – across Aerospace, Aviation, Motorsport, Automotive, Marine and other technical sectors. With the potential to learn new skills and become officially certified even easier thanks to Online Aviation Training courses and Government investment in the industry,


5. Work with a Specialist Recruitment Company

Engaging with a recruitment company that specialises in your industry can offer insight into the wants, needs and situations of the talent that you want to attract. Specialist recruitment consultants can help business leaders to build a picture what will really attract skilled candidates into the business and create a bespoke plan to reach talent pools at all stages of their careers.


Read our Step-By-Step Guide to Recruiting After Brexit.

Find out more about VHR’s award-winning recruiting solutions.


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