Engineering Industry Overview

The engineering industry is broad and plays a key role in many different industry sectors. It is very often stereo-typed with heavy industry and the hard hat job role. Given this perception, it can be challenging for those in engineering recruitment roles to overcome. However, engineering can range from innovations in new drug development through to developing advances in telecommunications.

The various sub-sectors of engineering include:

Firstly, it is estimated that 5.7 million employees work within the engineering industry in the UK. This accounts for approximately 19% of total UK employment.

Secondly, Engineering UK estimated that the engineering sector contributed 26% of the UK’s total GDPR in 2015. The contribution amounts to approximately £486 Billion and was a 2.3% growth from 2014.

Thirdly, the Engineering Salary Survey 2019 found that the average salary in the engineering industry is £51K per year (an increase of £48K from 2018).

Energy / renewables / nuclear claimed the highest average salary with £58K. Other sectors included in the survey ranked as follows:

Who Are the Major Employers in the UK?

The engineering industry and its various sub-sectors boast many large organisations operating in the UK.

Just by analysing the top 10 companies in the FTSE 100 index, you will see how many engineering firms are present:

As you can see, the only organisation in the top 10 that is not directly related to engineering is HSBC.

Whilst this hard hat perception has followed the industry there are companies in the sector that are regarded as desired to work for. Undoubtedly, this will serve to attract top graduates but this is one aspect the industry can try to improve on (as we will discuss later in the guide). Target Jobs surveyed the top engineering and manufacturing companies based on student and graduate’s opinion. The top 10 are:

The full 300 list can be viewed here

With so many top engineering companies scattered across the UK, we have listed an example of some of the top companies by major UK city and its surrounding area:






Engineering Job Market

To meet the industry employment demands forecasted to 2024, it is believed that engineering companies will need to recruit 265,00 skilled workers annually. That amounts to quite a significant talent pipeline required by engineering recruitment to deliver.

However, the demand for people with engineering skills is not being met through the education system. This means that there will be a shortfall between 37,000 and 59,000 engineering graduates each year to fill key engineering roles as forecasted by Engineering UK.

The below table is sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and highlights the total number of employment by Industry SIC in 2019.


Count Employment Turnover (£’000s)
Mining and Quarrying 1,240 53,138 33,404,062
Manufacturing 136,930 2,449,922 589,252,623
Electricity 4,620 115,494 106,612,432
Water 5,035 111,399 28,919,142
Construction 205,395 1,080,925 219,361,093
Repair Vehicles and Transport 46,055 235,106 28,486,972
Information and Communication 184,215 978,716 194,904,341
Professional 114,260 635,500 94,894,365
Administrative and Public 2,520 61,142 2,996,645
Other Services 6,935 35,366 5,653,722
Engineering Footprint 707,205 5,756,708 1,304,485,397
Whole economy 2,718,435 31,167,073 5,822,865,832

Key Employment Trends

Trends by Sector

Trends by Location

Engineering trends by location


Trends by Occupation

(Source: Engineering UK 2018: The State of Engineering)

Key Skills and Qualifications

To cater for an industry with a diverse range of sectors, the skills and qualifications required are equally diverse.

For professional and skilled jobs, degree-level qualifications are often required. The degree subjects are often related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing) and catered for by many of the leading UK universities. Popular STEM course for the engineering industry are:

Recruiting Graduates

One of the key challenges for the UK Engineering industry is the fast-changing landscape of job skills required and the skills that new graduates to the industry provide.

Engineering has faced its problem in attracting students on to graduate courses and also into Modern Apprenticeship Schemes. Reasons can be attributed to:

The Future Landscape

Leading up to 2024 it is forecasted that there will 2.5 million job openings across the engineering sector.

Comprising of 2.5 million jobs will be 1,170,000 graduate and technician engineering jobs. The following sectors are predicted to make up the majority of these graduate and technician vacancies:

How HR Managers Can Recruit Top Engineering Talent

According to PWC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey – Key Findings in the Industrial Manufacturing Industry, only 32% of companies implement strategies to attract or retain talent.

As the employer and employee relationship landscape changes, companies that implement a talent management strategy will inevitably benefit.

Below, we have outlined some key considerations when developing a talent management strategy.

      1. Develop a strong brand message for new recruits

It is no longer sufficient to provide the basic requirement in terms of pay, benefits, job security, and advancement opportunities.

As the millennial generation enters the workforce, they are increasingly engaged by a company’s brand values, working culture, training and development opportunities. Company’s need to develop a compelling message to ensure they are attracting top talent.

This will benefit the industry as a whole to create an attractive image to entice students and graduates to choose a career in the engineering industry. So with STEM skills being transferrable to other industries such as software and finance they are prising top engineering talent away.

     2. Expand your talent network

In today’s competitive environment, the companies who wait to battle it out for students once they have left college may find that:

Outreach to schools and colleges to engage students to your brand and the various opportunities will reap rewards. Some companies are offering scholarships for engineering students who demonstrate high academic potential.

Using your company’s online presence and social media outreach can be a great way of promoting your brand to future top talents.

With the vast amount of information available to millennials online, they no longer just choose careers and industries. They choose a brand that aligns with their values and ambitions.

       3. Accessible training and development

Top talent will expect companies to have a central role to play in improving their skills and personal development. As different technologies and innovations enter the engineering workplace the need for new skill adoption will be required at a rapid pace.

Top talent will want to be able to keep their CV ahead of their competition but also ensure they have the tools and knowledge to progress in their career.

As online training and eLearning becomes widely accessible, companies should have training resources and programme readily available for employees.

Companies should also implement an onboarding process for new recruits. The on-boarding process is vital to ensure new recruits are engaged with the brand, company culture and clear direction on how to perform in their role.

       4. Create an expert HR team

PWC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey found that most manufacturing CEO’s do not have confidence in the HR departments to find the right talent.

As highlighted in this guide, the need for talent in the industry is critical to its success.

Very often HR professionals are generalists or have been up-skilled from administrative roles. They often lack the specialist skills or knowledge to attract and retain top talent.

For example, HR teams might be strong in managing employee relations but may not have the appropriate skills to recruit top talent. So, if you do not have the appropriate skills in house or have a small HR team then consider outsourcing specific roles to specialist engineering recruitment agency.

How Sigma Recruitment Works with the Engineering Sector

Sigma Recruitment is a specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. We take a consultative approach to finding our clients the best candidates.

As specialist recruiters, we have an extensive understanding of what both candidates and clients expect from each other when it comes to recruitment in the engineering industry.

We know what constitutes an ideal Biochemical Scientist candidate from meeting the expectations of a Civil Engineer.

Each of our clients has their own unique culture, brand and career development opportunities. As a result, we ensure our clients brand and expectations are conveyed to all of our candidates making sure there is a good fit for both client and candidate.

As a specialist in the Engineering Industry, we are able to attract an extensive database of candidates who are looking for their next career move. Once we have a clear understanding of our clients scope and brief we get to work on our 5 step process. We build a bespoke candidate search plan which incorporates a mix of our in-house database and candidate advertising expertise to find quality candidates for the role.

Click here for an in-depth explanation of our 5 step process. Below is the outline of the steps:

Useful Links

Industry News:

The Engineer

Engineering UK

Science Daily

Life Science Industry News


Institution of Engineering and Technology

Institute of Mechanical Engineers

Society of Operations Engineers

Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology

Institute of Chemical Engineers

Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

Institute of the Motor Industry

Institute of Civil Engineers

Engineers Europe

Building Engineering Services Association

Engineering Industries Association

Engineering Council

Society of Operations Engineers

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