Skills and recruitment challenges have been an ongoing issue since the market started to recover after the recession a decade ago.
This year 64% of 2018 GSF respondents reported problems recruiting suitably skilled engineers in the last 12 months, while more than half said they had to increase salaries to retain staff.
GE’s salary survey is in its fifth year and, despite the majority reporting the need to raise salaries to prevent churn, the average salaries across the four different grades of geotechnical engineer recognised by Rogep has hardly changed. With inflation, this means that geotechnical engineers’ salaries have decreased in real terms.
With margins on projects remaining tight and growing commercial competitiveness, it is hard to see how there will be significant change soon. This is despite the skills shortage remaining the industry’s main concern – greater than workload or margins – with 68% of respondents reporting it as the primary issue at present.
Nonetheless, the pay issue will make it challenging to attract new recruits, as well as retain staff and recruit from abroad. This will be a particular issue in the coming 12 months as only 3% of GSF respondents are expecting staff numbers to decline and more than half are expecting an increase in staff in the next year.
Around a third are forecasting a 10% increase in staff numbers, but 12.7% predict an increase of 20% and 5.4% expect a rise of 30% or more.
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“The market in Europe ispicking up so there is morecompetition for staff than in thelast 10 years,” says Keltbray managing director for piling Stuart Norman. “Recruitment and retention have been an issue for us over the last 12 months and I wonder how much of an impact Brexit has had on the desirability of UK as a place to work for non-UK engineers.”
Keller managing director Jim De Waele agrees about the Brexit impact: “European workers may be less motivated to come and work here and recent immigration figures seem to support this. Regardless, we anticipate the widest skill gap will be on site, finding skilled operatives. Keller is better placed than some, as we can shift some of our workforce from other regions, subject to any tightening in the immigration and visa controls.”
RSK divisional director for geoscience and engineering George Tuckwell adds: “Staff with two to six years’ experience are difficult to find and can be expensive compared with their fee-earning ability in the marketplace. We are mitigating this by a very strong pipeline of graduates and apprentices, and an excellent training and staff retention process.”
While recruitment remains a challenge, the need to ensure businesses do not discriminate is driving more to benchmark the diversity of their workforce.
Almost half of the businesses that responded to the 2018 GSF report monitoring the age, ethnicity, nationality, gender and disabilities as part of their recruitment processes, up from a third when GE first started benchmarking diversity monitoring in 2015. Less than 10% said they looked at socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and religion.
More than 60% of businesses now have written policies to ensure diversity in the workplace, but many do not publicly report how diverse their business is, although they do benchmark their own performance internally.In 2014, around 40% of businesses had written policies.
Over a third of businesses have practice guides to ensure they are not discriminating and a quarter offer staff training on diversity awareness, compared to 27% and 12% in 2015.