The apprentice levy

It is a common theme that the UK has a huge Engineering skills shortage in the UK. Every year, the UK faces a shortfall of over 81,000 people with engineering skills in the workforce. As things stand, that means we need to double the number of entrants into engineering across all levels of qualification. In the energy & manufacturing sectors we face a particular challenge, because many of the most experienced engineers and scientists are set to retire in the coming years. In the background – key political trading conditions and the need for the UK to demonstrate its value as a high quality product provider.

The Apprenticeship levy
The Apprenticeship Levy was first announced by George Osborne in the November 2015 budget with a view to create 3 million apprentices by 2020. It is estimated that employers will pay in £2.6 billion into the pot that will fund the training of apprentices. The levy comes into play in May next year and will begin the process of approaching the skill gap. That said, the appeal of the engineering and manufacturing industry vs the software development/retail and more ‘glamourous’ industries will continue to be a challenge. How the Engineering/Manufacturing/Construction/Energy sectors markets itself will be key to its long-term success.

Who will pay the levy?
All employers in the UK with a payroll bill greater than £3m per year will have to pay the levy. The levy will apply to employers in all sectors – including those already covered by statutory levy arrangements (e.g. construction and engineering construction). If you already pay a levy, your industry training board (ITB) will consult with you on potential changes to your existing levy arrangements.

How much will I have to pay?
The levy will be charged at 0.5% of payroll. All employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against payment of the levy. So only employers with payroll bills greater than £3m will have to pay the levy. There will be a ‘connected persons’ rule, so if you operate multiple companies or payrolls, you will only be able to claim one allowance. You will be able to choose how to divide the allowance between the different connected companies. For the purposes of the levy, payroll will include all wages, bonuses, commissions and pension contributions on which NICs are due. In technical terms, payroll means the total earnings upon which Class 1 secondary NICs are paid. It will not include other payments such as benefits in kind.

How will the levy be collected?
The levy will be collected monthly through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) alongside Income Tax and National Insurance. Your £15,000 levy allowance will be translated into a monthly allowance of £1,250. If your levy liability in a given month is less than £1,250, you won’t have to make a levy payment that month. Any unused allowance will be carried forward into the following month(s) until you’ve used it. If the reverse is true, and you find that you have made levy payments, but not used all of your allowance you will be given a credit that you can offset against other PAYE liabilities. At the end of the tax year HRMC will operate a rebate system to make sure that you pay the right amount of levy.

For further information on how your business can benefit please feel free to contact Perpetual Partnerships or see the government website for instructions.

vintage cars
A History Of Engineering In The UK – Part 2

Britain was the birthplace of true civil engineering,

thanks to the work of George Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Thomas Telford, who brought us techniques which are still in use today, even if the technologies on which they relied have long been superseded.

But the UK also played a major role in the foundation of the discipline of electrical engineering, once Michael Faraday had demonstrated how electrical energy could be converted into mechanical energy using electromagnets in 1821.

Just over 50 years later came the invention of the electric motor, when Michael Faraday demonstrated how electrical energy could be converted into mechanical energy by means of electromagnets.

The need to maintain the new types of specialised machines used in many industrial applications, such as spinning, weaving and heavy manufacturing, was the catalyst behind the development of the concept of mechanical engineering.

Any history of the engineering in its broadest sense can only scratch the surface of developments, so for the rest of this article we’ll present a timeline of major events from the last 200 years. From it, you’ll see that the roots of many of the inventions and devices which we take for granted today go back much further than you realise.

The Timeline

1822 – Charles Babbage presents his ‘Difference Engine’ – the forerunner of the modern calculator. By helping greatly improve the accuracy of calculations used to produce arithmetical tables, he lays the ground for massive advances in many fields of engineering and technology over the following century.

1825 – George Stephenson’s Locomotion railway engine is the first to haul passengers, on the 25-mile route between Stockton and Darlington on Teesside in north-east England. Four years later, a competition to design a locomotive to operate the first intended ‘inter-city’ railway service is won by Robert Stephenson, with his Rocket. The service, between Liverpool and Manchester, begins operating the following year.

1839 – Welsh judge and scientist William Robert Grove produces the first fuel cell, by which electrical power was produced through a chemical reaction. In his case, he combines hydrogen and oxygen, but the principle has been greatly refined over the years, and is now used in many modern vehicles.

1840Joseph Whitworth’s measuring machine enables the accuracy of any measurements to be massively increased – from one-sixteenth of an inch which had been considered the state of the art to this point, it enables the measurement of objects of as little as one-two millionth of an inch.

After The Revolution

1843 – The first fax machine is developed by Alexander Bain, who registers a patent for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents and improvements in timepieces, and in electric printing, and signal telegraphs”.

1851The Great Exhibition, at Crystal Palace, south London, is staged to showcase the cutting-edge inventions of the day. Thousands flocked to see the displays, which covered a massive variety of British-designed products.

1856 – Henry Bessemer lays the foundations for the large-scale replacement of iron with steel with the introduction of his Bessemer convertor, considered to offer the first cheap means of mass producing steel from molten pig iron. Steel production is further advanced the following year, when William Kelly invented the blast furnace.

1858 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel launches his steamship the SS Great Eastern, which at 22,500 tons and 700 feet long, would remain the longest and heaviest sea-going craft for another four decades.

1862 – Birmingham-born Alexander Parkes develops a hard, transparent and flexible material which he calls Parkesine – it is the world’s first plastic.

1868 – After almost 2,500 deaths and injuries on the roads of London a couple of years earlier, the world’s first traffic lights are installed at a junction in Westminster, London, the device having been invented by John Peake Knight.

Rise Of Science

1876 – Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, by which speech is transmitted along wires using electric power. His invention grew out of a fascination with ways of transmitting speech to the deaf. Five years later, he experiences a rare failure, when his claimed metal-detecting device fails to spot the bullet with which US President James Garfield was shot in his bed.

1884 – The modern steam turbine, enabling steam to be converted directly into electricity, is invented by Sir Charles Parsons, who is later called “one of the greatest engineers that this country [the UK] has ever produced”.

1891-93Rookes Crompton develops and begins manufacture of a range of forerunners to modern kitchen appliances, including the toaster and electric oven.

1893 – Lancashire man James Sumner invents the world’s first motorised lawnmower. Powered by steam, it weighs two tons.

1907 – Brooklands, near Weybridge, Surrey becomes the site of the first purpose-built off-road racetrack in the world.

1913 – The world’s first moving production line is installed at the Ford factory in Michigan – paving the way for many thousands more during the century in the UK and worldwide.

1915 – British engineers developed the first battle tank, combining the availability of the internal combustion engine, armour plate and the continuous track to transform warfare.

1917 – The world’s first aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, is launched by the British Navy.

After The War

1924 – King George V officially opens Wembley Stadium. Built in under a year at a cost of £750,000, 25,000 tons of concrete, reinforced with 600 tons of steel rods, went into the construction of the stands and terraces.

1924 – John Logie Baird patents a system of mechanical rotating discs which later form the basis for his invention of television.

1929 – Frank Whittle invents the jet engine – despite initially failing to persuade the Air Ministry of the merits of the use of a gas turbine as a means of power for producing jet thrust.

1935 – Reginald Mitchell’s fighter plane, the Supermarine Spitfire, undertakes its maiden flight, three years before entering front-line service with the RAF.

1938 – Streamlined A4 class steam locomotive Mallard achieves a world speed record of 126mph – which still stands as the highest speed achieved by a steam loco.

1941 – The Gloster G28/39 is the first jet-propelled plane to use the engine technology developed by Sir Frank Whittle.

1944 – PLUTO – The Pipeline Under The Ocean – is completed, to supply petrol from southern England to Allied forces advancing through France after their victory of 6 June (D-Day).

1945 – Alan Turing develops his Bombe machine, an electro-mechanical device used to crack the coded messages sent by German forces.

After The (Second) War

1957 – The first commercially-operated nuclear power station in the UK opens, at Calder Hall, Cumbria. The site is now part of the Sellafield complex.

1959 – Sir Christopher Cockerell’s first hovercraft, SRN-1, makes its maiden voyage.

1967 – Barclays Bank installs the first, early version of an ATM at a branch in north London.

1969Concorde undertakes its maiden flight. It entered passenger service in 1976, and was withdrawn in 2003.

1973Dr Martin Cooper, working in conjunction with manufacturer Motorola, invents the first mobile phone. It weighs two kilos (4.4lbs).

Crazy Eighties

1984 – Charles W Hull patents the term ‘stereolithography’, the process of reproducing three-dimensional images, and the founding principle for the 3-D printer.

1984 – Apple introduces the world’s first commercially successful computer to use a mouse and a graphical interface.

1989-90 – Sir Tim Berners-Lee invents a system for interlinking text documents via a web browser, and so the worldwide web is born.

Mighty Nineties

1990 – Computer engineer Alan Emtage builds the first search engine.

1991 – The first wind farm in the UK opens, at Delabole in Cornwall.

1993 – James Dyson’s bagless vacuum cleaners enter large-scale production.

1994 – The Channel Tunnel opens, providing the first physical link between the Britain and mainland Europe.

1997 – IBM super-computer Deep Blue beats world chess champion Garry Kasparov, an event which was hailed at the time as a triumph for artificial intelligence – and today, much more sophisticated machines regularly beat human competition in other games of mental agility.

1998 – Work starts on the construction and launch of the International Space Station

Oh Millennium!

2000 – The UK’s first offshore wind farm opens, off the Northumberland coast.

2001 – The world’s first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, goes on sale in the UK and worldwide.

2002 – The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, linking the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals in central Scotland, opens.

2003 – The Renault Kangoo, the world’s first plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, is launched.

2007 – Sun21 makes the first solar-powered crossing of the Atlantic.

2008 – The first commercial carbon capture and storage plant enters operation.

2010 – Two scientists win the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work in isolating Graphene, a crystalline form of carbon and one of the strongest, lightest substances known to man.

2012 – The first electric vehicle charging stations appear in the UK.

2013 – BAE Systems launches its first ‘super sub’, HMS Ambush, which can ‘hear’ a ship before it has left port on the other side of the Atlantic.


Engineering experts are constantly seeking out new and exciting developments in the UK, but today’s industry is more global than ever.

All the developments above were made or advanced in some form by talented engineers working here. Who knows what developments they, and new entrants to the profession, will be responsible for in the next two centuries?

Exciting opportunities abound in many different types of engineering disciplines for people with enquiring minds who want to build the society of the future. Get in touch and register with Perpetual Partnerships if you want to find out more about some of these openings in and around Cheshire.

Better Skills Key To A More Productive UK

We’re regularly told that, while the UK’s economy is currently faring better than those of many of its main competitors, it is being held back by persistent low levels of productivity compared with those same rivals.

Now, the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF), which champions the interests of businesses of all sizes in all parts of the industry, has released the findings of a survey among its members which suggests the UK’s poor record on productivity could be a myth.

It says that firms have widely varying ways of measuring this key indicator, but that generally “UK manufacturing has a strong tale to tell, with a healthy 64% of manufacturers achieving productivity growth in the past two years.”

But, the report – entitled ‘Productivity – The State Of The Manufacturing Nation’ – goes on to say, “despite manufacturers undertaking a broad range of productivity improvement measures and ingraining productivity growth into their business models, there are still concerns about UK manufacturers lagging behind their global peers.”

The Government itself believes that lower productivity in relation to our main international rivals is a ‘problem’ which needs to be addressed, and on the face of it, this view was backed up by its official number-crunchers at the Office for National Statistics, which released a report suggesting output per hour was 18% lower than the average achieved by the US, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada –  the widest productivity gap since comparable estimates began in 1991.

On average, those figures suggested that Britons produce 36% less per hour than workers in Germany, 31% less than the French and 10% less than the Italians.

Damned With Faint Praise

But according to the EEF, manufacturing’s productivity growth outpaced that of the service sector and the UK economy as a whole in the two decades to 2014.

Its figures show that 64 percent of manufacturers claim to have seen their productivity grow in the past two years, and nearly as high a proportion – 57 per cent – expect it to stay in positive territory for the next two years.

Yet 49 percent of respondents also agreed that the productivity of the UK’s engineering sector lagged behind that of its main competitors – indicating that they felt there was still much progress to be made if the sector is to remain strong in the face of worldwide rivals.

Lack Of Required Skills A Big Concern

Despite the huge gains to be made in the sector as the broad outlook for the world’s economy improves, however, a sizeable minority of people who took part in the poll – 22 percent, or just over one in five – felt their business was still being held back by a shortage of skills.

And these highly sought-after skills aren’t just those of an advanced nature, another report, this time from the UK Commission on Employment and Skills, contends. It concluded that employers were concerned that many applicants coming to them from college or university were poorly prepared for the transition to full-time work, due to a poor grasp of basic skills.

Yet its authors are also perplexed as to the reasons for, and possible solutions to, this problem, saying in the introduction to their report: “   Knowing that UK productivity has flatlined since 2008 at the same time as employers know of talent untapped in their workers is not easy to take in.”

The EEF concluded: “Manufacturing has the potential to be a major driving force behind improving the UK’s productivity performance, but must also tackle its own concerns about lagging behind global peers.”

So there’s evidence to suggest a major link between the widely-perceived lack of skills among entrants to engineering, a lack of the means, and possibly even the desire, to equip workers with those skills, and the perception of the UK as having a poor productivity record when matched against its main competitors.

If this really is at the root of our problems, the measures needed to tackle such a shortage are not ones which can be adopted overnight. As Chancellor George Osborne said in 2015 in a report, ‘Fixing The Foundations: Creating A More Prosperous Nation’: “The UK suffers from several weaknesses in its skills base that have contributed to its longstanding productivity gap with France, Germany and the US.

Is there really a long-standing problem of low productivity among engineering firms, and industry in general – or is it all a self-perpetuating myth? And to what extent do you think a lack of basic skills among new entrants to the industry is responsible for this, and so might be holding back the UK on the world stage? Let us have your thoughts in the comments below.

recruitment search
The 7 Top Qualities That Make A Good Recruitment Consultant

The recruitment sector

has mushroomed in recent years, as businesses in a wide variety of fields decide to outsource the responsibility for searching for candidates, and administration of the processes involved in choosing the right ones.

The shape of the UK’s business environment has changed dramatically over the last two or three decades. From a situation where big businesses dominated, and would often even build entire towns for their workforce, government analysis of the business landscape in 2015 showed that 95 per cent of businesses in the UK employed nine people or fewer.

Owners and managers of lots of businesses, especially those in the SME sector, i.e. with 50 or fewer employees, are often too busy simply ensuring that everything is running smoothly within their company to devote the time needed to the important job of looking for and attracting the right people to help their business develop and grow.

How This Has Changed The Face Of Recruitment

Today’s business manager is a multi-disciplined individual, who has to keep abreast of every part of day-to-day operations, while also having a grip on their vision for the longer term.

You therefore often hear the word ‘versatile’ used as a highly desirable quality for employees in businesses which have to be able to get themselves established to the point where they are looking to recruit extra staff.

But many businesses still require staff who have very specific kinds of expertise, and it is this contrast between highly specialised employees and ‘all-rounders’ which represents one of the biggest challenges to anyone working to recruit people to such firms, as the qualities required to assess whether candidates are suitable for any given role can be hugely varied.

As Business Has Specialised, So Have Recruiters

It used to be the case that a recruitment company would build up a wide base of client businesses in its local area, mainly through word-of-mouth recommendations and their own networking efforts, involving going out and visiting businesses and talking to senior people about their plans and their needs in the candidates they take on.

In this way, many acquired clients who worked in a wide variety of different business areas, which required the recruiters to quickly learn about what those companies did, their ethos, and what they would commonly look for in potential new employees.

But we have increasingly seen recruitment firms themselves which have been established specifically to meet the staffing needs of a particular business field. Engineering, sales and the media are three notable areas which have seen a sharp rise in the number of businesses dedicated to serving their specific needs.

These are usually set up by someone with substantial previous experience of working in the sector they wish to target. They may even have held an internal HR post, where they faced the challenge of attracting and recruiting staff directly for their employer. In this, they will have discovered the main attributes considered desirable in candidates for specific posts, and the procedures used to differentiate between them and find those most suitable.

That’s the case with us as Perpetual Recruitment, where our leading figures carved out successful careers in other sectors, getting to know their structures and practices, before bringing the insight they had gained to bear in a career in recruitment. So here, they present their seven top attributes needed if you have ambitions to follow them:

You Have The Sharply-Honed Instincts Of A Detective

Cheryl Wing, who runs a London-based company specialising in recruiting staff for companies in the HR sector, says one of the foremost qualities needed to succeed in the sector is an enquiring mind.

It’s necessary for recruitment consultants to check everything about a candidate, because as every experienced recruiter knows, there is nothing worse than sending a candidate to interview to have the client uncover they have lied and deceived in their CV. This reflects poorly on the consultant involved,” she writes.

You Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

Like many other businesses with a strong sales element, the ability to work towards achieving targets, and to thrive under the pressure this can bring, is a major factor in success in the recruitment field.

But this must not be at the expense of the dedication to finding the right ‘fit’ for an employer, as it is only through earning their respect and satisfaction that an external recruiter will advance in their own career and boost the standing of their business.

You Always Remain Positive

Of course, a large element of recruitment is being able to ‘sell’ the proposition offered by an employer to a potential candidate. You therefore need to be able to overcome any objections which may be put in your way as to why the opportunity you are presenting isn’t the right one for them – even if it sounds really tempting!

If you are working on the client side, you may find yourself almost becoming a remote ‘arm’ of their business, so be able to establish a close working relationship with the people in charge. That, in turn, should mean that you can plug into the ethos of that firm, making it easier for you to seek out the right kind of people. You’ll probably find the truth of the maxim “success breeds success”, meaning you will earn more business through recommendations, which will make your job so much easier.

You Know How To Measure Your Success

KPIs – or key performance indicators – are the ways in which you can evaluate how you are doing in your job, and decide how to focus your efforts.

But how will you know if you’ve been successful? You’ll probably have to achieve a set number of job postings per month, along with a proportion of successful outcomes for clients, and these will all have to be completed to timescales usually dictated by the clients themselves, as they will have a date in mind for when they want their new staff on board.

Before you get to this stage, though, you’ll probably have to do quite a lot of groundwork – so if that means making 10 calls in your first hour at work before you can move a face-to-face client or candidate meeting, then you shouldn’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and do it. And if you want to be a success, you should be prepared to not stop just because others do.


You Talk The Same Language As Your Clients – But Can Also Relate With A Wide Range of Candidates

To succeed in any line of work, you need a good spread of basic qualities – but in a highly competitive field such as recruitment and retention for businesses, a handful of extra attributes can help you well along the road to success.

The ability to listen to how your clients communicate, their tones of voice and the way in which they relate to each other and their own customers can be vital. Even in a highly technically-focused business, you should be able to sound as if you know what you’re talking about, as you’ll be expected to be able to filter out candidates who might be trying to do likewise – but are really just good at selling themselves.

As you progress towards recruiting for more senior roles, you may also need to adapt your way of doing business so that you can build effective relationships with the most senior executives in larger businesses or organisations in the public and private sector.

Due to the demands on their time, and their need to travel widely on business, these people may not be easy to reach for face-to-face conversations, so you will need to be equally adept at communicating via emails, texts and social media messaging.


You Look After Yourself

As with any career which people really enjoy, it’s easy to find yourself working ever-longer hours as you strive to set and achieve ever more ambitious goals.

But you need to remember the importance of ‘me’ and ‘family time’ to your general well-being and, even if your clients are ‘on call’ 24-7, know when to leave the office behind and spend time unwinding – whether that’s by visiting the gym, reading a book, catching up with the news, or enjoying time with your kids.

You can try to fool yourself by telling yourself that stress goes with the territory of having a fast-paced career – but what good will that be if you drive yourself to exhaustion in a couple of years?

You’ll have noticed that most, if not all, of these attributes apply to workers in many other sectors apart from recruitment. But this brings particular challenges, and as a fast-growing and ever-changing sector, new formulas for success in recruitment are being created all the time. So our final attribute must be:


You’re Prepared To Question The Status Quo

While certain founding principles, such as honesty, transparency and a respect for people with a variety of talents, will help keep you grounded in recruitment, no one ever became a huge success without taking some risks.

Think of Sir Richard Branson – he’s almost universally admired for his entrepreneurial spirit, and never tires of trying new things. When he identifies a business sector to which he feels he can bring something new and unique, he will follow his dream, in the process building a strong ethos which people who work for him can identify with, and be happy to promote to others.

Perhaps on a smaller scale, this is how whole industries and business sectors move forward and ensure that they stay relevant to their existing and potential customers.

So if you find that a certain aspect of your work isn’t getting the result you want, have the courage to realise it, and to ask how you need to change it. In recruitment, there are no hard and fast formulae for success, so your new ideas should always at least deserve to be listened to.

Have you heard any other pearls of wisdom from people who have been successful in business which you’ve adapted for yourself, and had dramatic results? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Female engineer
Call For More Women Engineers To Stand Up And Be Counted

The major imbalance between the sexes when it comes to employment in engineering and technology in the UK is regularly flagged up as an issue of importance to the long-term future of the sector.

Now, a new push, launched to coincide with National Women in Engineering Day (which was on 23 June for all of you ‘There’s a day for that’ fans), is aiming to persuade women working in study, research and development based around engineering-related subjects to publish their work, as a way of demonstrating that new thinking in the industries isn’t just the preserve of men.

The call has come from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, a body which sees its mission as “to inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community,” so it’s fair to say that if it perceives that the gender imbalance in the sectors is a problem, then it’s an issue which is worthy of being addressed.

The issue of the lack of women embarking on STEM career paths is clearly one which goes to the heart of the general difficulties the sectors face in attracting sufficient quality new entrants in the first place.

Like many other important business sectors, the fact that those who are making big strides in STEM tend largely to have low public profiles is a problem which many in the sector feel works against attracting the bright, new female talent which is claimed to be so sorely needed.

A notable exception to this came, coincidentally, on 23 June, when the Daily Telegraph published a roll call of the 50 most prominent women currently working in engineering in the UK.


More than 800 women were nominated for a place on the list, and below is just a sample of those who made it (with their place in the top 50 shown in brackets):

  • Jacqueline Castle, head of landing gear for the Airbus A350, and previously responsible for integrating more efficient engines into its predecessor, the A330 (48)
  • Rachel Skinner, director, development, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff – who has worked on some of London’s biggest regeneration projects, and been recognised for her research into the future of driverless cars (42)
  • Helen Samuels, engineering director, United Utilities – in charge of a team of more than 500 who maintain over 700 water treatment plants and 200 reservoirs nationwide (38)
  • Alison Nimmo, chief executive, The Crown Estate – effectively the person in charge of £10billion-worth of property and land belonging to the Royal Family, who was also involved in the successful London 2012 Olympic bid (33)
  • Sue Ion, chair, Nuclear Innovation and Research Authority Board – an internationally-renowned nuclear fuels expert, she is a leading advocate of scientists communicating their work, and the benefits of it, more clearly and accessibly (24)
  • Judith Hackett, chair of the Engineering Employers’ Federation, and past chair of the Health and Safety Executive – she spent 23 years working in chemical engineering before moving to work with a number of professional associations (18)
  • Elizabeth Eastaugh, global head of customer experience, Expedia – before taking on her current role, she managed about 200 developers and engineers, after joining the company as a software engineer in 2007 (13)
  • Jayne Bryant, head of engineering, defence information, BAE Systems – in four decades with the business, she has worked in various departments, and now promotes women in the sector through the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) (5)
  • Danella Bagnall, vehicle programme director, Jaguar Land Rover – the first woman in such a position at the company, she began at JLR in 1987 as an apprentice. She now does much coaching and mentoring in schools and universities, as well as representing JLR at many world media launches (3)

And (cue fanfare) top spot went to Roma Agrawal, a structural engineer who has (literally) left her mark on the London landscape, having helped design The Shard, and is now heavily involved in giving talks aimed at inspiring future generations of engineers.

A common thread among many of those who made the list is a dedication to encouraging more women into engineering-related studies and careers. They are acutely aware of the obstacles which can stand in the way of women trying to get established and progress across the entire STEM (science, technology, engineering, manufacturing) sphere.

Visibility Of Women Key To Change

The Telegraph’s report also pointed to the strong positive effect which seeing women working in key roles in a variety of fields can have on young people who are deciding on their future career path.

“The influence of positive female role models can’t be underestimated in energising the next generation,” said Fiona Tatton, editor of digital magazine Womanthology, and one of  Key the judges who helped determine the composition of the Telegraph’s list.

She clearly agrees with the assertion that, in order to increase the level of female representation in engineering from the current level of six per cent, the problem also has to be tackled from a generation further back – another figure included in the same Telegraph report suggested that 93 per cent of parents would not support their daughter if she decided to pursue an engineering-based career.

The Women’s Engineering Society was responsible for establishing the National Women in Engineering Day in the first place, because it felt there was a need to link together efforts being co-ordinated separately by government, education, business, professional institutions and individuals towards raising the profile of careers in the sector in the eyes of those facing the choice of which field to concentrate on.

It has been fighting the battle since 1919 to try to create a society in which “women are as likely as men to choose to study and work in engineering, and one in which there are enough engineers to meet a growing demand.”

While there can be no doubting the merits of this highly worthy aim, cynics might point to the fact that, almost a century after it was established, women continue to be outnumbered in the profession by 16 to one, and suggest that – despite the undoubted advances gained in respect of equality in many other fields – its task is insurmountable.

What Has Changed?

The entry of so many more women into the workplace since the Women’s Engineering Society was formed, for one thing.

That has, of course, meant that there is the ability to push boundaries when it comes to expectations and aspirations, and, in many sectors, the direct competition between the sexes has been greatly intensified, as a result of women generally pursuing a wider range of careers.

The national labour force survey from the UK’s Office for National Statistics found that, as of June 2016, out of a total UK workforce of almost 31.6million, 14.7million were women, and 16.9million men.

Three-quarters of the workforce are in full-time jobs, the same survey found, but of those only working part-time hours (a total of 9.5 million), 6.26 million are women, and just over one-third of this number (2.24 million) are men.

This massive majority of women forming the part-time workforce may be one reason why so few are able to pursue careers which are by and large considered to be full-time, which would include most jobs in engineering.

It’s still clear from these figures that, when it comes to taking on responsibility for bringing up children, women are overwhelmingly the ones who make the sacrifice of switching from full to part-time work – which means that they find it more difficult to sustain a career which places heavy demands on them in terms of working hours as well as flexibility when it comes to where they work.

Cuts Both Ways

However, the Times Educational Supplement has made the valid point that gender imbalances are also present on a similar scale but in the reverse (i.e. women greatly outnumbering men) in a number of sectors which might be considered as equally important to the successful future of the UK economy.

It reported on an address to the Association of University Administrators’ conference in 2014 by the then-head of UCAS, Mary Curnock-Cook, in which she said: “We hear all these things about [getting] more women into science, and women doing physics, and computers and so on, why don’t we hear more about getting men into nursing and education and social work where, after all, there’s a very ready supply of a very large volume of jobs?”.

When it comes to women’s and men’s respective roles in society, and in the workplace, there are still clear dividing lines, and as the above illustrations show, nowhere are these more stark than in many workplaces.

But with more visibility being given to the trailblazers who are working hard as advocates of careers across the whole spectrum of STEM disciplines, there’s no shortage of inspiration for those who want to challenge the status quo, who have ambition, and want to see how far it can take them.

Do you want a taste of the opportunities which could open up for you if you’re set on pursuing a career in engineering? Visit our site today.

Robots replacing people
How We’re Losing Our Jobs To Robots

As many as four out of 10 young people

are concerned that they will find the work they do replaced by a robot within the next decade, with the potential job toll being as high as five million.

The alarming finding came from a survey conducted by Indian IT consultancy company Infosys of 16 to 25-year-olds in nine of the world’s most advanced economies*.

Young people in the UK who were questioned were among the most pessimistic about their chances of building a long-term career being hit by robotisation. 45 per cent claimed to be worried about the prospect of being replaced by robot labour, compared with an average of 40 per cent for the survey as a whole, and second only behind the proportion of Indian participants who voiced the same concern.

The release of the report inevitably led to a rash of scare stories, accompanied by the expected lurid, and largely distorted, headlines suggesting that the new generation of ‘smart’ robots would dump large numbers of people on the employment scrapheap.

A Problem For The World’s Great And Good

The timing of the report’s publication was no accident, coming as the leaders of the world’s most developed countries were gathering in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum – the year’s biggest get-together of the great and good to discuss the biggest current and upcoming issues facing their nations.

It was a serious, and by virtue of the headlines it generated, at least partly successful attempt to highlight concerns among the workforce of today and tomorrow about how they are being equipped to be able to take their place in the changing world of work.

Yet, whilst the landscape of work may take on a decidedly different look over the coming years, the economic prosperity of the world’s leading nations will still depend heavily on what productive work they can create for their citizens.

‘Soft’ Skills Coming To The Fore

While the headlines to the reporting of Infosys’ findings tended towards the alarmist, the major conclusion the report drew was that success in the jobs market of the future will depend more heavily on candidates’ so-called ‘soft’ skills.

Faced with a growing list of candidates with similar levels of qualifications and skills, they will use other criteria to judge whether they feel a particular one will be the best fit for their workplace and culture.

That will mean decisions from among a list of, otherwise evenly-matched, candidates will be made using judgments on such factors as:

  • Their ability to communicate well with the kinds of people whom they will be expected to liaise with directly in the course of the job;
  • Their ability to take decisions and be accountable for them;
  • and their capacity for thinking ‘out of the box’ and coming up with creative solutions to common problems.

So if you’re entering (or re-entering) the jobs market yourself soon, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of success if you can show an employer examples of where you have applied skills such as those mentioned above, and they have resulted in a positive outcome.

Will New Emphasis On Soft Skills Turn The Tide Towards Women In STEM?

The report once again highlights the chronic shortage of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, and calls on employers to do more to retain female members of their workforce beyond the junior level.

“This new data illustrates the urgency with which leaders across business and policy must find new ways to ensure that the full talent pool of men and women is educated, recruited and promoted,” the report states.

New Generation Of Robot-Minders Wanted

Importantly, the survey also suggested that, while the potential for a net loss of jobs of more than seven million was a pretty grim prospect, the wider use of robots and similar mechanisation processes would directly create another two million vacancies in specialised areas such as engineering, mathematics, computing and architecture.

So the challenge for teachers, company bosses and anyone else with an interest in perpetuating the futures of thriving and growing businesses is to encourage today’s children to become fascinated by robots to the degree where they want to become involved in their world.

When they show this desire, they can then be shown how to work alongside them, and help them meet their mission to make all our lives easier by taking away many of the most menial tasks currently entrusted to humans – even if it just means being able to fix them and tend to their needs while they do all the thankless, boring and non-creative jobs.

*The countries which participated in the survey were: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the United States and the UK.

Perpetual weekend
Outbound Weekend Team Building

At the beginning of October

we took a trip up to Gisburn in Lancashire for a team building weekend away. We stayed in Dalehouse camping barn that was set in the heart of the country side with nothing but rolling hillsides for a view…which meant no TV, no phone or Wi-Fi signal, but luckily there were plug sockets for the 3 guys (not naming any names) that took hairdryers!

Gisburn 1We arrived in glorious sunshine so we put our hiking boots on and went for a nice long walk around the forest and nearby reservoir. We ended the evening enjoying a culinary challenge of producing a starter and main course with just £2 per person to spend. Despite the kitchen looking a tad worse for wear afterwards the result was a lot of very tasty food!

On the Saturday we went to a local activity centre where we split into two teams to battle it out on the field so to speak! Activities just to name a few consisted of warming up with team plank races and number sequencing, building a campsite to a specification then to the more mentally challenging tyre tower of Hanoi and an archery session which was great fun. Then we progressed on to the more physically demanding crate stack, Jacobs ladder and leap of faith which definitely wasn’t for the faint hearted! They were a long way up but with the morale support from everyone else below, no matter which team people were in, it gave me personally the encouragement and push I needed to get to the top of the Jacobs ladder and take the plunge off the extremely small and wobbly platform on the leap of faith.

In the evening we enjoyed a well-deserved meal out at a local pub which were luckily showing the England vs Australia rugby match. Despite the final score we had a great evening and got a rather unexpected lively ‘disco bus taxi’ back to the barn that definitely awoke anyone who was feeling sleepy!

It was a fantastic weekend and it really highlighted the importance of working together, communication, shared understanding…and ear plugs, they were definitely needed to drown out a certain someone’s unmelodic snoring (not mentioning any names)!





manchester made
Recruitment Challenges highlighted at Made in Manchester event: The view of a Recruiter

The recruitment industry

has over 500,000 consultants working for around 7000 different recruitment organisations across the UK. We attended the Insider’s Made in Manchester Breakfast to develop a ‘under the radar’ understanding of Northwest businesses, with a particular focus to those businesses that fell within manufacturing and engineering sectors.

With so many recruitment companies in the UK it was interesting to hear Leanne Holmes, Director of Operations at CPI (Crane Payment Innovations) announce that recruitment was the biggest issue CPI faced due to location. David Brimelow, owner of Duo UK who was also present at the event voiced a similar view, which talked more around the difficulty in finding individuals with the right aptitude and talent needed to enter a rapidly growing organization. Brimelow also commented “There simply aren’t enough young people who will consider careers in engineering and manufacturing”.

From the recruiter side of the fence it was fascinating to hear business leaders talk about their recruitment issues and problems in a public environment however nothing was said about what they had done to counter these concerns. Listening to both Holmes and Brimelow present their different interpretations on recruitment in the North-West was thought-provoking and I felt from my ‘young person in the recruitment game’ perspective, I had observed things myself which if improved, could make a difference in the future.

I would firstly like to address the problems that David Brimelow identified. Growing up through primary school, high school, college and then university, I never really had any fixed idea on what I wanted to do with my career. Of course, numerous educational facilities can provide career advice but until I became a recruiter and started trawling though CV’s I had no clue of what positions were available in the manufacturing and engineering market. There are certain jobs I have come across, particularly in engineering which if I had known about in my younger, schooling years I could have perhaps chosen to pursue.  I think that many young people think of manufacturing as boxing something up at the end of the line, or welding something together in a dirty and physically demanding environment.

I personally believe that for a positive North-West engineering and manufacturing future it is important to give young people exposure to these environments and positions. By opening up these vast industries, young people could use this to determine where in engineering and manufacturing they would be best placed.

Medicine, Law, Business to name a few are not for everyone and I feel that the stereotypes drawn towards these industries takes the limelight of manufacturing and engineering which can be a progressive and lucrative industry to be a part of.

Secondly I would like to tackle Leanne Holmes’s statement. Location can be a huge factor when recruiting for our clients. The company could be fantastic and so could the salary however if the area does not hold a strong pool of candidates it can provide businesses a huge problem when looking to expand or strengthen their work forces technically. This issue provides countless opportunities for recruiters to prove themselves and stand out more than the other 7000 agencies available and can also remove large proportions of a businesses budget which could have otherwise been invested in site development, staff training, bonuses and culture improvements.  Ultimately this scenario is great for a recruiter and not so great for a business.

I operate in the executive search and selection market and have been chosen to head up this division. Perpetual Partnerships are owned by engineering and manufacturing group of businesses called The Cygnet Group. This has enabled me to understand recruitment from 2 angles: The Recruiter side, and the engineering/manufacturing business side. I speak to many clients and candidates on a day to day basis and one thing has become clear. Yes role and money are all important factors when it comes to choosing a position and a company to work for however the most important thing that overrules all of these factors is the culture of the business and what a business does for its people.

Most recently I have been recruiting a senior and technically niche position in an extremely difficult part of the UK. So far this company had done little to advertise its culture and show to people why it is a great place to work. I advised current employee testimonials go on their website, amongst other various effective culture information which enables an external candidate to get a real feel for the business ahead of interview. After significant amounts of time has passed prior to me working this position, the candidate was found, offered and accepted and to this day, business culture was the dominant reason for the employment move.

I recently asked a certain client of mine to speak at an event we are looking to host which will be discussing driving this culture implementation and change.-  My clients response was this: “ My (probably incorrect) view is if it doesn’t come from you, you shouldn’t do it at all- you’ll just end up like someone else’s business”.

I personally believe that if a business invested more budget into culture and it’s people, in the long-term it will pay dividends.  Recruitment organizations will always be necessary and through synergy, both engineering/ manufacturing businesses and recruitment organisations are both likely to be more successful. The reason I work for Perpetual is the culture of the business. I use this with all clients to then understand every aspect of their business and site before even attempting to work any of their positions.


here to support
Going the extra mile

Recruiters think clients don’t care.

Clients think that recruiters are only in it for the money. Not exactly the basis for a trusting relationship. The truth is, in the majority, we all want the same thing – a mutual win-win result. A partnership that rewards both parties.  Rob Bemment

The image of recruitment is long spoken about and is a continual challenge for professionals in the sector. We work in the engineering space where resources are scarce and hence the competition from ‘CV sending agencies’ has never been more of a threat to ‘traditional’ consultancies like ours.

We believe that charging a fee for simply introducing a candidate just won’t create those long lasting relationships clients crave and the exclusivity quality recruiters need. You have to go the extra mile – creating added value for clients and ultimately building trust which then generates repeat business.

Start by offering ‘pro-bono’ services which will enable clients to trust your knowledge when it comes to recruit. Salary surveys and competitor analysis are relatively simple to put together and will go down well with your clients. Experienced recruiters get involved early in a client’s growth plan allowing them to plan effectively the talent they require.

Initially clients can be sceptical – the only way to be build that trust and ultimately the long term win is by going the extra mile – taking a risk that will pay off.

The recruitment industry is a fast evolving and competitive industry. Like our clients in the engineering sector we must adapt a continuous improvement mentality to ensure we keep one step ahead of the agencies that rely on firing CV’s in a ‘pot luck’ approach.

It’s easy to have some success and think you are the best – maybe you were – but if you stay still for 12 months the chances are you are falling behind.

Written by Rob Bemment

Adapting to the Vacancy Vacuum

The latest UK labour market report

on jobs (sponsored by KPMG and REC) highlights the continuing trend of increasing candidate demand and falling availability has resulted in the slowest rise in permanent placements for over two years. Bernard Brown, Partner at KPMG defined the key challenge facing UK recruiters in his statement; “the growing skills shortage is cross sector and cross discipline: recruiters are struggling to fill vacancies for everything from software engineers to sales.” He also goes on to discuss the lack of candidate supply driving up salaries and businesses falling short of their long term growth potential because they cannot meet their staffing demands. 12 months ago I wrote about the need for an alternative response to this worrying trend other than just ‘throwing money’ at the problem. This is required now more than ever before.


To further highlight this you only need to look at the trends in engineering which is one of our key markets. It remained the number one sector for permanent candidate demand and shows no sign of slowing down. Meeting this demand however is an increasing challenge as the availability of permanent candidates fell for the twenty-sixth time in as many months. This resulted in permanent salaries continuing to rise as companies pay premiums to plug the skills shortages. At Perpetual we are seeing the effects of this at first hand as we have a unique insight into this problem through our engineering parent company, the Cygnet Group. Cygnet have an ambitious growth plan to expand from £40m turnover to £100m by 2020 and will only achieve this if they recruit the very best engineers on the market along with retaining the existing valuable assets they already have.


As a growing SME business Cygnet is a prime example of the expanding businesses we service and the need to continually evolve how effectively we access quality candidates, as well as assisting them in developing retention mechanisms remain key focuses for Perpetual. Part of this strategy has come from the recognition that we cannot rely on filling clients vacancy requirements through adverts and job boards alone. The utilisation of our 100 plus strong internal engineering workforce at Cygnet has become a vital resource for recommendations of other high quality engineers. Over the last 12 months client demand for skilled engineers from mechanical and controls engineers to project managers has heightened the need to maximise these referrals from our internal engineering links more than ever. Our partners have benefited from this as they have seen the quality of recommendations as a more trustworthy source than those from job boards and adverts.


One of the other key initiatives we have adopted to deal with the rising candidate shortage has been to plan ahead and work on a similar strategy that we have adopted within the Cygnet Group. We have worked closely with the engineering managers to identify the key areas where skills shortages provide the biggest risk to achieving growth potential. Where we have recruited experienced engineers we have also looked to underpin them with talented graduates and longer term apprentice prospects. Meanwhile Cygnet have honed their succession planning, appraisal process and structured skills matrix’s. Together this has strengthened areas of previous weakness as well as allowing a real clarity for individual progression and skills development. I believe this is a better long term blue print than offering higher salaries and running the risk of them being lured away by the same means. This is the same philosophy we are advocating with a number of other SME growing businesses as they have to adapt and change to bring in top talent and truly offer a better alternative than larger businesses with greater budgets. If the candidate shortage continues it will be the companies which adapt quickest which will prosper.

subsea exbo
Subsea Expo

Aberdeen, 13-15th February 2015

Perpetual visited this year’s Subsea Expo, which was a record-breaking event with almost 9,000 recorded visits by 6,500 registered delegates over the three days.

Perpetual took the time out to visit existing clients while looking round at some of the fantastic stands and technical equipment that was on display.

Some very honest discussions took place over the three days that we think reflect how committed the subsea sector is to tackling the challenges facing the North Sea oil and gas industry. Even in a downturn market, recruiting the right people has never been so critical.

It was good to see such an interest from major subsea engineering companies in building strong relationships with Perpetual, as their recruitment partner.

The Subsea Expo also gives us a platform to access the people we want to be talking to, and we look forward to returning in February next year.

Photo taken from:


Cortlan Fibron logo
Cortland Fibron Ltd

Assignment: – We were tasked with recruiting a new Global Sales Director into the business to support its expansion internationally. The individual needed extensive oil and gas experience, to have sold internationally and be confident of meeting ambitious growth targets. The company has a great culture and people within it; therefore it was imperative that we found an individual that has the drive and ambition to move the business forward without alienated people who have been with the business for many years. They needed to be a real people person who would bring people along with them. The assignment needed to be handled discreetly and professionally.

Our Process: – We followed an extremely stringent process which initially involved mapping out a bespoke service the client was looking for. This comprises of defining the match, timescales, target companies, target individuals and ultimately defining what assessments needed to be made. The process was and always is completely transparent and meant the client received regular formal reports as well as informal progress updates.

What happened: After an initial telephone briefing we met with the client to ensure there was complete clarity on the brief and timescales. We aimed at no longer than a 3 month recruitment period. In the first month our research team identified in excess of 100 hundred target companies that met the defined criteria and then contacted candidates from each business. The individuals that were interested were then spoken by the managing consultant and long listed based on initial screening. We then operated a two stage interview process. Firstly to assess cultural fit, track record and expectations. Secondly to assess competencies as defined with the client.

We generated a short-list quickly and organised first stage interviews. We agreed on a preferred candidate during feedback and quickly put in place a plan to ensure we maximised the chances of completing the assignment with the client’s first choice option. We successfully managed the next stages in the process and managed a win-win negotiation to complete the deal.

Within 2 months of the initial brief we successfully completed the assignment. The client was extremely pleased with the level of communication and advice given to ensure we gave him the best chance of success. The Global Sales Director is now in place and doing well – and happy to provide a referral should you want to know more. We continue to be in touch for feedback and offer advice as necessary.

SCA logo
SCA Hygiene Ltd

Assignment: Perpetual were tasked with exclusively recruiting for a variety of manufacturing based roles to function within a brand new manufacturing hall following recent competitor acquisitions from SCA. The candidates required had to come from a manufacturing or FMCG based background and needed to have industry relevant qualifications to back up their experience. As a managed campaign it was crucial that we set timescales for delivery on each individual role and worked closely with the Management Team at SCA to ensure we sourced and attracted the best candidates to ultimately take the business forward. We needed to match suitable candidates on both skills and cultural fit.

Our Process: Managing a number of roles at any given time is always a fine balancing act to ensure each role is given the time and dedication it deserves. Internally we decided on a set process we would follow to ensure we were able to deliver the same quality based approach to a high number of vacancies. This involved a number a site meetings with SCA management to define the crucial aspects of each particular position and the type of people that would fit those positions. Following those meetings, a key account manager was assigned alongside a dedicated team of rescourcers to ensure delivery could be achieved.

We began by using a variety of methods to attract and speak to as many suitable candidates as possible for the vacancies in question. Following the initial telephone screen we moved to focus on detailed interviews with each candidate that we felt may be suitable for SCA as a business. Following the interview with Perpetual we then generate and submitted a shortlist of candidates that we believed were at the level required to achieve and exceed within the job.

Outcome:Working strategically we initially focused on an Operations Leader vacancy ensuring we found a candidate that had both the willingness and ability to take the next step into a plant management role as and when the opportunity arouse. Using this model we then continued to recruit for a full pallet of Shift Managers, Maintenance Engineers and Process Engineers. Again we were conscious of recruiting a blend of technical staff and using our stringent approach we managed to select a number of candidates with varying levels of ambition to meet the needs of SCA.

as good as your people
The ‘Real’ Challenge of Recruiting Recruiters

As we continue on our high growth strategy following the Goldman Sachs and Growth Accelerator programmes the realisation that we are only as good as our people could not be more apparent. We have been successful in developing individuals without any recruitment experience into the future managers and key business providers of the future. In the early days we were challenged with the dilemma of recruiting experienced recruiters versus developing our own talent and the obvious time that this can take to achieve.

Whilst we continue to seek talent with experience in similar recruitment fields the most apparent beliefs we hold are that the raw courage, resilience and ability to think on your feet are the greatest assets of all. We will continue to search for these qualities in everyone we recruit because they will be key in achieving our commitment in providing the very best quality service to both candidates and clients. Whether you are experienced in recruitment or not, these abilities remain absolute necessities to us as a business so if they are part of your DNA then please enquire about possibilities within our business.

goldman sachs
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

As we approach the end of the Goldman Sachs programme

we reflect on the valuable expertise we have been exposed to over the last 6 months. The curriculum is designed specifically for the 10,000 Small Businesses programme by world-class international, national and local experts in entrepreneurial learning. The focus is on developing the practical skills and knowledge that we as small business and social enterprise leaders require as we grow our business. We have experienced a series of sessions centred around honing our business direction, skills and key services which we will continue to develop over the coming years.

One of the messages which has been loud and clear is the great asset you have in the people which make up our business and getting the best out of them has knock-on effects for clients, candidates and employees alike. Goldman Sachs focus on our businesses culture, vision and values and approach of ‘polishing our diamonds’ will form the basis of our strength as a group and the driving force for achieving milestones and growth. There are many factors which we will need to blend together to ensure our business is the best which we can make it but our people will be the chief focus in bringing it all together. The course has been invaluable in not just assessing what we have not got but also in cherishing and nurturing what we have which largely is our people. We will continue to drive this great area of strength and feel privileged to have had exposure to the expertise Goldman Sachs provided.

We have a unique and intricate understanding of the technical recruitment market. We are focused on quality of service rather than on sales and KPI’s.


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