Ask the Engineers: 'Are any engineering jobs recession- and pandemic-proof?'

Professional Engineering

'Demand for innovative agricultural equipment could grow' (Credit: © This is Engineering)
'Demand for innovative agricultural equipment could grow' (Credit: © This is Engineering)

Are you stuck in a career rut or planning your next move? Maybe you’re a student struggling to decide on an industry? We're putting your burning questions to our panel of seasoned engineers.

In Issue 1, 2021, Gary Lock asked: "Are there any engineering jobs that are recession- and pandemic-proof?"

"There are certainly aspects of engineering that are robust to those two factors. The water industry is one obvious sector and also the electricity generation and supply industry. Cars are transitioning from fossil fuels, and the answer is electricity. The sector is bound to expand and get more sophisticated. Related is heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which is going to be a growing area for the same reasons."

Michael Reid


"By its very nature, engineering is innovation and this can always be delayed due to lack of cash. Hence it’s very difficult to fully hide from a recession. However, infrastructure usually does OK because the politicians want to look as if they are doing something so usually throw borrowed money at projects to boost jobs. Also, any company that exports is partially protected because the recession is rarely in every part of the world."

Stuart Kirby


"For decades the fast-moving consumer goods and food industries have been considered recession-proof (for careers and for investors). In a pandemic, washing and sterilising manufacturers do OK. As we come out of the pandemic, those companies go into the background and it’s aircraft and yachts and leisure that move back to the boom part of their cycle."

Tim Mitchell


"Not sure there is anything that is protected from any scenario, but defence always gets a boost in a recession and, right now, engineering roles in the pharmaceutical sector are in growth. One client I am working for are doing so well that they are building and opening a new facility this time next year."

Mike Cameron-Davies


"Engineering roles in the essential services necessary to sustain life will always be recession-proof, such as power generation, water supply, communications, medical equipment, food processing and (at the other end of the process pipeline) sewerage and waste disposal and recycling."

R John


"I would say wind-turbine technicians. I work for a wind-energy service company and even during 2020 we couldn’t get enough technicians for the workload. This demand will keep growing as the world’s wind-energy capacity expands year on year."

Simon Donald


"Nothing is certain, so follow the money. Government has committed to green and infrastructure developments. Energy demand is unlikely to shrink. Brexit may force the UK into self-sufficiency, so demand for innovative agricultural equipment could grow."

John Firth


"On balance, probably not, because the impacts of a recession and a pandemic are not uniform across engineering. So some sectors will be hit and others not, depending on the depth of the recession and how many people are affected by the pandemic."

Richard Bossom


"Yes – small-scale engineering at the local level that uses materials that are 100% recycled and that is in harmony with nature. Things like handmade Swiss watches, hydropower turbines and quality gardening tools."

Jackie Carpenter


"Something we’d all like to know! A company with a broad base of products and services is better placed to weather downturns in certain sectors and reallocate personnel. Ideally, it should take on a mixture of private and public-funded work."

Alastair Miles


"‘Proof’ or affected less? Look at the roles of key workers and the engineering support they require, from delivery drivers to the generating industry – those jobs will always be needed even though the economy slows dramatically."

Ian Weslake-Hill

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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