The banking crisis could bring an unexpected benefit for British industry by increasing the allure of engineering and manufacturing jobs at the expense of City posts, according to a specialist recruitment firm.
SThree, which recruits professionals educated in the so-called STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and maths, said the financial services sector had contributed to a skills shortage at industrial businesses by tempting away graduates with well-remunerated employment packages. According to a survey of 402 businesses organised by the UK arm of General Electric, the US conglomerate, two-thirds of respondents are struggling to hire technicians and engineers. The UK boss of BAE Systems, Britain’s largest manufacturing employer, last month became the latest industry executive to warn of a skills shortage.
SThree’s chief executive, Russell Clements, said industrial companies had struggled to compete with the City. “The UK’s engineering skills shortfall is a function of the fact that people think it is an unattractive sector. There is a perception issue. If you said to a bright young graduate do you want to join a bank or an engineering company, the answer would have been a bank. In Germany the answer would have been the opposite.”
However, Clements said signs that the “lustre has come off” the banking industry will benefit companies in SThree’s recruitment sectors, which include engineering, energy, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, aerospace and automotive. Within that, IT is the main specialism. “The engineering sector … will be a beneficiary of the perception that all that goes on in banking is not what it seems to be,” said Clements, referring to the crackdown on bonuses and layoffs across the financial services sector in the UK. “There was a sense that if you joined an investment bank there was nothing you could do other than earn money. Professionals placed in permanent roles by SThree earn an average of £56,000 per year and range from project managers to mechanical and nuclear engineers, as well as IT specialists.
Clements spoke as SThree announced a 9% increase in revenues to £278.4m for the six months to 27 May 2012, with pre-tax profits falling 16.9% to £9.3m as the company invested in an international expansion. In the results statement Clements warned of “a deterioration in the macroeconomic situation during the second quarter”. The UK and Ireland accounted for a third of SThree profits over the period, with Germany next at 23%, followed by the Benelux countries and France. SThree said profits in the UK and Ireland had risen 2%, which Clements said was far below pre-crash levels, which often hit more than 20%.