The slowdown is likely to be a natural pause after two consecutive years of 4.2% growth rather than any long-term stagnation, however, recruitment and engineering experts told Professional Engineering.
Engineering’s poor growth was the second lowest for sectors covered by the 2019 Reed salary guides. Procurement and supply-chain jobs, which also have a direct impact on engineering companies, saw no salary growth. Advertised salaries for accountancy and finance, on the other hand, increased by 1.8%, and the wider technology sector saw a 1.4% increase.
“Engineering salaries appear to be climbing year-on-year and a smaller increase last year may reflect caution linked to political uncertainty rather than any long-term trend,” IMechE head of education Peter Finegold told Professional Engineering. “With all the uncertainty over Brexit, the engineering and manufacturing sector continues to offer some of the best career opportunities.”
Advertised mechanical engineer salaries dropped by 1.7% in 2018, while new systems engineers could expect 4.1% less and new programme manager pay fell 5.9%.
Wales bucked the trend, with an average increase in engineering salaries of 2.7%. New recruits in London also benefited, with a 2.3% rise.
Increased demand for candidates with digital skills and an ongoing need for workers with traditional skillsets saw average advertised salaries rise for some roles. The largest increases were 3.5% for CNC programmers and 2.9% for electronics engineers. Reed’s analysis of 10m job postings since 2015 also found a 2.4% increase for field service engineers, 2.2% for production managers and 2.2% for engineering and technical directors.
“Mechanical engineers with digital or robotics expertise are likely to be in the greatest demand over coming years,” said Finegold. “The evolving nature of our sector reinforces the huge benefit of belonging to a professional engineering institution that offers career-long support for engineers, where training needs are identified and development opportunities provided.”
An “acute” shortage of candidates means prospective employees have the upper hand in the jobs market, said Mark Blay, director of Reed Engineering. “We need 200,000 people per year with the right qualifications to meet demand from now until 2024, and there’s a massive shortfall,” he said.
“Those with level-three qualifications and an understanding of robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing will have a key role to play in developing the future of the sector."
He added: "However, a lot of training is still needed to take full advantage… with such rapid modernisation, no business will find the ready-made ‘perfect candidate’ – there has to be a strong element of training there too.”
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.