Engineering sector offering more temporary jobs but has potential for skills shortage because of upcoming retirements

Government spending on infrastructure has helped raise the number of people in temporary engineering jobs, despite a general rise in unemployment throughout industry.

That's according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, which pointed out that temporary positions are fairing better than permanent placements and vacancies.

The number of permanent engineering jobs available plunged by 8.6% over the past year and the number of proper placements in the sector fell by 4.7%.

But temporary placement numbers have increased 2% on average since March last year and are up 1% since February, the association said.

Increasingly, permanent jobs are being replaced by temporary ones, with a 7% fall and 5% rise recorded respectively. This is said to indicate the continued deterioration in confidence among employers that the economy will improve in the near future.

In terms of engineering, the jobs picture in individual regions varies wildly. In Scotland, contract placement numbers have shot up by a third in the space of a year (33%), yet in the south-east - a wealthier part of the UK - numbers have plunged 15%, according to statistics for online recruitment only.

The fewer opportunities in the south-east are said to correspond with the government strategy outlined in the National Infrastructure Plan.

The association's Ann Swain said: "Engineering remains one of the few bright spots within the professional recruitment market. This is being fuelled by initiatives like the HS2 rail link project, Crossrail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport which has created huge demand for highly specialist engineers and project managers.

"This vast investment in infrastructure projects has resulted in businesses turning to contract professionals which offers not only a level of flexibility but also negates the need for permanent headcount cost."

But the Government needs to take action to ensure the engineering sector does not haemorrhage workers because of the approaching "retirement cliff", resulting in a serious skills shortage, Ms Swain said.

"The Government's commitment to pump an additional 18 billion towards infrastructure projects by the end of the next parliament, including programmes to improve major highways, upgrade rail links and develop onshore wind farms, is welcome news for the jobs market.

"In order to prevent future skills shortages, the UK must look towards encouraging more individuals into the sector before it is too late."

Copyright Press Association 2013