Why New Engineering Recruits Can Benefit from Employer Concerns

New recruits for civil engineering jobs are in high demand today, with the aerospace, IT, construction, electrical and transport industries all recruiting at higher than average levels.

However, research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) indicates that 53% of employers believe the average new recruit does not live up to their "reasonable expectations".

The research identified a series of areas in which they believe new recruits are lacking, including:

  • Business acumen
  • Practical experience
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Soft/work-ready skills

This trend does not exist in isolation. Looking back at previous IET reports, it is clear that this lack of skills is a long-standing and growing concern for engineering employers.

Why are over half of employers unsatisfied with new recruits, and how could this actually improve prospects for skilled applicants?

Why new recruits in civil engineering jobs aren't meeting expectations

The IET report suggests numerous reasons why employers might feel new recruits are not living up to their expectations, including:

The education system

The most frequently cited reason was the inadequacy of the education system.

28% of employers believe engineering degrees are not suited to their needs. Qualifications currently on offer are thought to lack the necessary depth, be largely out of date and overly focused on theory.

Almost two-thirds believe the education system will have difficulty maintaining pace with the latest developments in the industry, reducing the innovative capacity of new recruits.

Some suggested that schools must do more to promote STEM subjects from an early age, while 10% would like to see educational institutions do more to sell the industry to students.

On-the-job training

Despite such a negative opinion of the education system, it appears that employers offering civil engineering jobs may not be helping themselves.

94% of businesses accept that they have responsibility for putting in place measures to ease the transition from education into full-time work, and this is still the primary means of staff development.

However, many are not aware of alternative options that can help new recruits bridge this gap. For example, 42% of respondents were not aware of the Government's apprenticeship scheme, which offers the opportunity for new recruits to combine educational study with practical experience.

Small candidate pools

Although companies can only work with the people who possess the requisite skills, it appears the net is not being cast very widely at present.

 Female recruits continue to make up just 9% of the overall engineering workforce; 57% of employers have no gender diversity initiatives in place; while 75% are without initiatives for LGBTQ and/or ethnic groups.


These trends appear unlikely to change in the near future. Only 41% of employers recognise that they could do more to employ staff from diverse backgrounds.

What opportunities does this present for new recruits?

While the above factors are a clear cause of concern for employers, new recruits might well find the number and quality of available civil engineering jobs increasing.

Recruits with specialist skills will be in demand

The UK is facing an annual shortfall of 20,000 new graduate engineers.

A limited number of companies may be able to move their operations abroad, but the majority will be tied to the UK and will need to do everything they can to hire, train and develop local engineering graduates and apprentices.

People looking for civil engineering jobs who possess, or prove themselves willing to learn, the skills employers currently feel are lacking will find themselves in high demand.

Those looking to switch from related industries – such as aerospace or automotive manufacture – will be given more opportunities to work in civil engineering, thanks to the abundance of transferable skills honed in these roles.

Employers will have to provide more compelling job offers

Employers will need to come up with more enticing job offers to prevent skilled recruits switching to other industries.

This is likely to include better remuneration packages, as well as more opportunities for less tangible factors like flexible working and training/progression opportunities.

Despite the concerns of employers over the calibre of new recruits, it is clear that the current job market will provide ample opportunities for those willing to spend time developing the skills employers believe are lacking.

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