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Civil and Structural Engineering – Recruitment and Employment Update – winter 2018

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Civil & Structural Update Winter 2018

FRAME Recruitment is focussed on the buildings and infrastructure sector. We surveyed over 2,500 Structural and Civil Engineers from the UK in an attempt to find out the movement of candidates in the marketplace.

In what is a challenging marketplace for employers to find and retain the right staff for their business, we asked Structural and Civil Engineering candidates:

Are you planning on moving on from your current role in the next 6 months?

How happy are you in your current role?

What is making you choose to move or what is making you stay?

Some very interesting themes were identified, these findings are reported below:

Engineers are on the move before BREXIT

Over 53% of Structural Engineers indicated that they would be looking to move roles in advance of BREXIT in March 2019. A greater percentage (60.5%) of Civil Engineers stated they would be looking for new employment in the first quarter of 2019. Martin Bennell, Managing Director of FRAME considers that whilst this figure seems alarming, it may be swayed by the respondents that completed the survey: “we have to accept that this survey was completed by a recruitment business, and a number of the respondents are in the job market and so unfairly increases this percentage. Either way, this is something our clients need to be aware of and taking action to either bear-hug current staff or have plans in place for replacing leavers quickly

Based on these results, this means that employers are potentially facing the prospect of needing to replace over half of their engineering staff in the run up to March. Are employers ready with a recruitment contingency plan to fill this shortage?

Perhaps a solution would be to source contractor staff to cover the shortage? Unfortunately our research shows that there is a lack of contractors available in the marketplace to plug the gap of permanent members of staff moving on. Only 24% of Civil Engineers were currently contracting and a very low 15.5% made up the contractor profile of our Structural Engineering respondents.

We hope that employers are speaking with their trusted recruitment partners about contingency plans.

Even happy employees are moving on

We asked Engineers to rate their happiness in their current role. We were shocked that although nearly 40% stated they were happy in their current role, they were still seeking new opportunities. The main factors that were impacting this decision were that they were compelled to find something new that gave them career progression (42.72%), increased pay/benefits (31.36%) and the prospect of working on better projects (18.18%). This clearly signifies the importance of Engineers ambitions to not only improve their standard of living but also their career and project opportunities.

 A word of warning to employers - even your employees who seem the happiest may still be considering other opportunities in pursuit of meeting their ambitions. 

Career progression opportunities make your staff happy

The Engineers that indicated that they weren’t looking for a new role in the next six months were in the majority very happy in their current role (over 85%).

Their happiness was created by two prominent factors; career progression available in their current role (58.6%) and the people they work with (33.4%).

It is clear that when employees have career progression open to them with their current employer it creates happiness and decreases the chance of them seeking a new career opportunity somewhere else.

People are a key factor too – a culture of like-minded individuals creating a positive working environment improves the happiness level of employees and decreases the chance of migration.

Pay and benefits did not feature as an important factor for happy employees in making them stay with their current employer.

According to Martin Bennell, this trend is commonplace across most industry sectors “It is becoming hugely important for all businesses to consider staff satisfaction levels – the cost of hiring is often a lot higher than the cost of retention

Is career progression available to your current employees?

Our survey highlighted that Engineers are very ambitious. The primary reason for Engineers to be seeking a new role was because of the lack of career progression in their current employment (over 40%). Whether a candidate felt happy or unhappy in their current role, the main motivator for their move was the lack of opportunity to improve their career with their current employer.

Where have all the internal career opportunities gone? Are employers reluctant to change the dynamics of their business until a more secure BREXIT strategy has been put into place? If employers are holding off on promotion opportunities until the BREXIT deal is announced, they are going to be too late for a lot of employees who are seeking to move on before this event.  


With a decision on BREXIT looming in the near future, we have seen engineering businesses become more cautious with their hiring strategies, many interviewing but delaying start dates, waiting for projects to be confirmed. These are unusual times with no previous experience to draw on. 

Candidates have a lot to consider with potentially turbulent times ahead, let’s hope they are able to continue to be focussed on improving their career opportunities, project portfolios and pay packages.


I will update you again in the spring, but in the meantime, if you would like to discuss any aspect of this update or any employment and recruitment matters, please get in touch.

Jake Jessey
Associate Director of the Built Environment – FRAME Recruitment