Without engineers, our businesses, cities, and households would crumble. The role of an engineer is to create, build, maintain, and support new technologies, essential infrastructure, and aerospace projects, and make other specialists’ work a reality. 

Despite being critical to society, we are seeing a shortage of engineers and a multitude of vacant engineering roles. According to EngineeringUK, engineering roles accounted for a quarter (25%) of all job postings in the UK in 2023, suggesting that employers are struggling to find the talent they need to help operations run smoothly, efficiently, and productively. 

This was further pronounced with our recent Talent Trends 2024 data that revealed the biggest challenges organisations faced when recruiting talent in the last 12 months was finding candidates with the right skills (73%), and a lack of applicants (65%) in the market.

What does an engineer do?

There is a wide range of engineering roles, each playing a different, but important, function depending on their sector and specialism. With seven main types of engineers and multiple options for specialisation, there is no straightforward answer to what an engineer does.

From electrical engineers who ensure circuits are operating as intended across multiple sectors to mechanical and maintenance engineers that support manufacturing and industry, the simplest explanation is that they make things work. As a result, engineers need to be able to learn and adapt to new innovations and technologies to help organisations stay competitive.

How is the role of an engineer evolving?

As technology, particularly AI and automation, become more integrated into the workplace, engineers are having to constantly learn new skills. As smart factories become the industry standard, there is more overlap with other areas of engineering and IT professionals, which means engineers need to have a strong understanding of all areas that their specialism might intercept. This has also triggered a rise in demand for systems engineers, who bring different disciplines together to solve problems.

With an increasing focus on sustainability, engineers are also playing an important role in how society can take greater care of the environment. From developing new materials to devising new ways to extract energy from the world around us, these innovations now form a crucial part of most engineering roles, whether focused on research and development, implementation, or maintenance.

What does a successful engineering candidate look like?

Our specialist engineering recruiters work with candidates and employers every day, covering health and safety, maintenance and reliability, operations management, project management, technical and quality, and research and development, so we know the top attributes engineering candidates need to succeed.

  1. Technical skills 
    As with any job, employers will be looking for candidates with the technical skills they need for engineering roles. Candidates need experience in the right field, but beyond that they need to demonstrate the analytic ability and attention to detail that make them good at what they do and an asset to the organisation.
  2. Problem solving  
    In any engineering role, problem solving is critical. It is this instinct that drives the most innovative developments and ensures businesses can function to the best of their ability. In manufacturing in particular, employers want to see a proactive approach to problem solving, valuing engineers who can identify and plan for potential issues and intervene early as well as those who can resolve existing issues. 
  3. Communication and teamwork 
    Engineers need to be able to express what is required, and with shifting roles often requiring more overlap between departments, they increasingly need to be able to explain complex issues to stakeholders without a good understanding of engineering. As well as teams needing to work together to build and maintain systems and machinery, crossover between different types of engineers also requires a high degree of teamwork.  
  4. Appetite for self-development
    In such a rapidly evolving sector – especially with AI and automation becoming more prevalent as our recent Talent Trends report revealed 24% of those in engineering and manufacturing are already using AI in their role – engineers need to constantly be learning new skills and adapting to their shifting job roles. This curiosity and flexibility ensure engineers can continue to meet the demands of their roles, pushing their organisations and society onto the next big thing that helps to create greater productivity and efficiency.

As one of the biggest recruitment agencies for engineering and manufacturing, our specialist recruitment teams are here to help. If you’re seeking a new role in engineering or manufacturing, submit your CV today.

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