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As many engineering recruitment agencies have noted, the technical and STEM sectors are facing a broad number of recruitment challenges in 2023. Around 73% of research and development-focused businesses are reporting talent gaps around the globe, whilst the rate of attrition for young engineering professionals continues to hover around 40%. 

A lack of talented candidates and additional competition from other industries increases the risk of stymying the innovation that occurs in the engineering environment on a daily basis. At the same time, the engineering job market is crucial to global economic productivity, trade, and national competitiveness, with engineers helping to strengthen the countries they work in by driving manufacturing, exports, and infrastructure development. Without the talent necessary to carry out these roles, the overall quality of life for the affected communities will likely be impacted.

It’s clear that something needs to be done, and in this guide, we’ll see what engineering recruitment agencies are doing to make a difference. Our exploration begins by looking at the recruitment challenges facing the engineering job market before we move on to how engineering and IT recruiters are helping to drive a diverse range of talented, ambitious candidates into employment across the sector.

Recruitment Challenges Facing the Engineering Job Market

IT recruiters and engineering recruitment agencies are excellent resources for understanding the trends impacting employers across the broad and multifaceted sectors they serve.

The technical and engineering job markets are facing various recruitment challenges in 2023. With the skills gap continuing to bite—largely a result of strong competition for the niche skills that specialists in these areas bring to their roles—the question remains: what are the trends and issues set to shape the future of hiring in the industry?

1. The Difficulty in Discovering Skilled Candidates

As the aforementioned skills gap continues to take its toll on the engineering job market, the ability of engineering recruitment agencies to discover the talent needed to drive the industry—and their employers—forward presents an issue for business success. 

The industry body for the profession within the United Kingdom, EngineeringUK, has reported data which shows that between now and 2024, there will be a shortfall of between 39,000 and 57,000 skilled candidates, technicians, and accredited engineers. Analysts believe that there is a range of reasons for this shortfall, from a shortage of applicants with qualifications of the appropriate level to a lack of awareness from school leavers of the different educational routes which can empower their engineering job search, from apprenticeships and internships to courses they can study around their current employment.

2. A Rising Global Demand for Engineering Talent

From manufacturing to robotics and everything in between, the demand for skilled engineers in key sectors has never been higher. This continues to exacerbate the war for talent in the industry, with candidates often fielding multiple job offers. 

As a result, it’s crucial that organisations continue to revisit their employee value proposition and review the salaries they’re offering in comparison to the rest of the technical and engineering industry, which will help them to ensure that they’re providing a competitive offer to candidates that are looking to change jobs, and early-career graduates engaging in the engineering job search. As we’ll explore in the next section, engineering recruitment agencies are also playing a role in helping you connect with candidates and keep them on board once they’re hired.

3. The Transformed Hiring and Recruitment Landscape

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Great Resignation has meant that HR teams across the technical and engineering sectors are facing significant employee shortages, a rising wage bill, and a shift towards the digitalisation of working practices, requiring them to consider a different approach when it comes to building their teams, from mechanical to electrical, software and supply chain. 

With some organisations adapting to remote work and automation easier than others, the transformational shifts across the industry require agility and expertise to ensure you continue attracting and retaining talent. 

Candidates want their work to be flexible and challenging in 2023, so if you’re looking to tap into the widest pool of candidates available, you must consider initiatives that will encourage this and enhance the well-being of your workforce. 

At the same time, 70% of engineering recruitment agencies agree that virtual recruitment is soon to become the standard, so when it comes to saving money, ensuring you’re ready for remote and hybrid work can help to save money and give candidates the ability to interview from far and wide.

4. The Continued Value of Soft Skills

It’s often said that hard skills can be taught on the job, but attitude often makes the hire. This is still true in engineering, where technical aptitude is just as crucial. Engineering recruitment agencies spend a great deal of time attracting and networking with candidates with the right soft skills and interpersonal abilities to fit into an organisation’s culture. 

97% of hiring managers agree that soft skills are prized just as much, if not more, than hard skills. This highlights the need for organisations to promote their culture and consider the ideal candidate they want to attract and work alongside to achieve success.

5. A Need to Integrate Diversity into the Engineering Job Market

Whilst there has been a positive shift towards encouraging more diversity in the engineering job market—especially as more organisations begin to leverage the services of engineering recruitment agencies to conduct their hiring exercises—there is still a good deal of work to be done to ensure that candidates from all backgrounds are finding their way into the industry. 

In the United States, for instance, only 13.7% of engineers are women. Ethnic diversity is more encouraging when it comes to the engineering job search statistics, with Hispanic, Black, and First Nations individuals making up around 32% of the technical workforce, but more needs to be done to ensure that these candidates are finding their way into STEM roles, too, with only 16% of employees identifying as having a non-white background and holding a bachelor’s degree. 

If organisations improve their diversity, they’ll not only bring fresh perspectives and an injection of talent on board, but they’ll also encourage younger talent to join their workforce. With the average age of employed engineers hovering around 40 years old, it’s important for the sustainability of the engineering job market that early-career candidates are encouraged into the engineering roles of today and tomorrow. 

The knock-on effect of these recruitment challenges is the increasing lead time and cost of discovering candidates during the engineering job search. With an average of 49 days from application to onboarding, engineering tops the list of industries for getting candidates up-to-speed and ready to work, preventing organisations from carrying out revenue-generating duties whilst they focus on reviewing, interviewing, and evaluating engineers. 

How Engineering Recruitment Agencies Respond to These Challenges

Whilst these recruitment challenges may appear unworkable, engineering recruitment agencies are going to great lengths to ensure that they can continue connecting their clients with the talent they need for continued business success. 

There are a range of solutions that have been proposed to ensure that candidates at all levels of seniority continue to flow freely through the engineering job market, with engineering and IT recruiters alike making certain that they’re engaged in continuous learning and research to keep on top of industry trends and opportunities. 

  • Developing an understanding of employers' needs in relation to the wider industry. Engineering recruitment agencies invest in the expertise and knowledge of their consultants, ensuring that they have the skills required to expedite the hiring process and save employers money, time, and effort. 
  • Building robust talent networks. Engineering and IT recruiters are nothing if not networkers. They regularly maintain and keep up to date with their extensive network of professional candidates, industry organisations, and educational institutions, enabling them to access talent at all skill levels, from fresh graduates to time-served executives.
  • On-the-job professional learning and development. When it comes to solving the problematic talent gap, engineering recruitment agencies are helping employers to understand how to interview for attitude and drive, ensuring they can bring new hires on board and get them up-to-speed quickly, bridging the shortage by getting ambitious engineers in place and giving them the competencies required to address that organisation’s unique issues. 
  • Market and risk insight. One of the major recruitment challenges is ensuring you’re able to stay on top of the latest trends within the engineering and technical industries. With a range of emerging technologies—from AI and machine learning to battery storage and green energy—leading to the dizzying speed of evolution within the sector, it’s more crucial than ever to stay up-to-date on the goings-on around the STEM industry. Engineering recruitment agencies provide precisely this function, offering salary benchmarks and guidance to attract and retain the best in engineering candidates. 
  • Leveraging innovative sourcing and screening methods. From data analysis to candidate assessment, engineering recruitment agencies are utilising the latest technologies to streamline discovering, interviewing, and onboarding candidates, helping employers understand when the ideal candidate matches their cultural, technical, and diversity needs. 

Through the assistance of engineering recruitment agencies, employers are proactively resolving some of the most intractable recruitment challenges facing the sector in 2023. 

Instead of having to take time away from revenue-generating activities, the efforts of engineering and IT recruiters mean that organisations can adapt to the latest technological and cultural trends with speed, whether that’s the promotion of remote and flexible working arrangements, the active championing of diversity and inclusion, or working with educational institutions to promote their employer as providing a viable, secure, and lucrative career path for graduates.

If you’re interested in learning more about the demand for technical professionals and engineers, see our recent guide on How to Retain Top Talent in Technical Engineering for a deep dive into the needs and desires of this skilled candidate pool. 

Final Thoughts on Engineering Recruitment Agencies’ Evolution

Engineering recruitment agencies and IT recruiters play a pivotal role in addressing the recruitment challenges facing the job market in 2023. 

With persistent talent shortages accompanying an increasing demand for professional candidates, these agencies are stepping up their efforts to bridge the gap and facilitate a smoother engineering job search process. In short, they’re investing in the expertise, talent networks, and on-the-job learning the engineering job market demands. 

By offering market insights and harnessing innovative sourcing and screening methods to streamline the recruitment process, engineering recruitment agencies are helping businesses overcome the unique roadblocks that stand between them and acquiring and retaining the talent that is the key to their success. Alongside this, they assist organisations to adapt swiftly to the evolving trends in technology and workplace culture. This strategic collaboration will ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for the sector.

People-Led Hiring Strategies for Today’s Recruitment Challenges

With a team of expert engineering and IT recruiters, MCS makes it their mission to ensure that organisations have the talent they need to drive revenue growth and remain competitive within a rapidly evolving engineering job market. Our award-winning services have helped candidates and clients in the UK, Ireland, and the USA to achieve their ambitions and corporate vision. Contact us today, and one of our consultants will be in touch to discuss your talent needs.