UK company Rullion recently undertook a wide-ranging survey of engineers and engineering employers to promote further discussion on the skills gap, and to gauge industry opinion about the future of the market.
Overall, 58% of UK respondents agreed there was a skills shortage in their sector, and this increased to 73% for respondents in the nuclear industry. An overwhelming 95% of UK nuclear engineers cited a salary increase as the top incentive to remain in the sector, followed by working on a high profile project and moving to a more desirable location. However, employer responses indicate they are reluctant to pay higher salaries for permanent staff in particular.
Many engineers are willing to work beyond retirement age, but employers need to prioritise incentives that will allow this to happen, such as flexible working hours. Nuclear engineers in other parts of the world would consider the UK as their top choice if they were to relocate for work.
There is an untapped pool of engineers willing to help bridge the skills shortage in the nuclear sector, made up of engineers working in other industries, senior engineers willing to work past retirement age and workers overseas who are keen to relocate to the UK. However, to attract and retain these engineers, employers must make salaries more competitive and align incentive packages with what engineers want, particularly in the case of permanent posts, including further investment in training and up-skilling and better bonus schemes.
Of the 112 responses to the 60 questions, 97 supplied their location. The majority worked in the UK (69) or Europe (16). Of those based in the UK, the top location was the North West, with over a third of respondents, followed by the South West (17%) and Scotland (14%).
The survey revealed seven out of 10 UK respondents were middle-aged or nearing retirement. The most prominent age group were 45 to 54-year-olds (53%), followed by 25 to 34-year-olds (19%) and 55 to 64-year-olds (14%). Half of the UK nuclear engineers who responded were aged 44 to 54, with one in five aged 35 to 44 and one in five aged 25 to 34.
When nuclear engineers were asked if they would consider working past 65, 79% in the UK said yes as did 73% of those based internationally. Rullion points out the contrast between what engineers say would attract them to stay or move to a role in the nuclear industry, and employers are prepared to offer.
Another finding is that engineers based in other parts of the world see the UK as a highly desirable place to work. When nuclear engineers in the USA, France and the rest of the world were asked which countries they would consider relocating to for work, the UK was the top choice (91%). It was followed by France (55%), Germany and Russia (45%), Belgium, the Netherlands, South Korea and Sweden (all 36%). The least favoured destination was China (18%), and a further 18% of respondents would not consider a move.