Advance Engineering
We’re attending Advanced Engineering 2017

Our sister company, Cygnet Texkimp is exhibiting on stand K144 at the NEC show on 1st and 2nd November and we’ll be there with them.

Advanced Engineering is the UK’s largest annual gathering of engineering professionals and connects the supply chain of the industry with R&D, design, test, production and procurement from OEMs and top tier industry players.

The show provides a great opportunity to see some of the world’s leading engineering projects under one roof and network with peers and exhibitors.

Nathan Abbass, Head of EngineeringOur Head of Engineering, Nathan Abbass, will there to talk to engineering businesses about how we can help with their people related challenges. We’re connected with some of the most skilled and talented engineering professionals in the UK and have been helping engineering business in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia recruit the best talent to their business since 2010.

If you would like to talk to us at the show come and see us on stand K144. If you’re exhibiting we would be more than happy to come to your stand for a chat – just get in touch to arrange a convenient time.

Entry is completely FREE with prior registration – just visit Register for Advanced Engineering.

To arrange a meeting with Nathan get in touch on 07713 697191 or

brexit EU
Engineering Talent – Brexit Talks will be Decisive

The recent ‘The Engineer’ article

highlighted three crucial aspects for next week’s Brexit negotiations which included low tariff trade deals, access to skilled EU workers and training/education incentives for domestic workers. In the article Caroline Milton, Head of Manufacturing at Menzies LLP explained, “SME manufacturers are already considering their options with plans to shift or acquire operations in Europe.” Trade tariffs have been high on the agenda since the head of Germany’s largest business group, the BDI claimed that relations with the rest of their trading counterparts were more important than with the UK despite the obvious strongholds such as UK/German automotive exports. This will certainly not go away and remains a focal point for next week’s discussions as previous tax cuts and reliefs to encourage EU investment is threatened by a ‘hard’ Brexit.

Key aspects in achieving this have to include training and skills development, and investment as any migration would also surely involve the very best talent. The article mentions that a recent Science and Technology Committee study outlines that the digital skills gap is already costing £63 billion in lost GDP and highlights STEM initiatives as being crucial in closing this gap. As a people business which is focused on providing the very best talent to the technical markets including energy, construction, engineering and manufacturing industries, we strongly feel that the allocation of funding to such skills initiatives is critical in keeping and continuing to attract the top talent to these shores. Within our sister engineering companies, Texkimp and SECC, attracting talent from both academic and wider geographic areas has always been key to our broader success. Attracting employees from 4 different European countries and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Manchester University are prime examples of the successes attained in our pursuit of excellence. This must continue and next week will be a key milestone in our future.


Garry Rogerson MD

northern powerhouse
What is the Northern Powerhouse – by Ben Appleton (Head of Senior Appointments)

The long anticipated “Northern Powerhouse”

funding was recently confirmed by Theresa May’s government. This is viewed as a really positive step towards funding the continued growth of Northern industry and innovation. Being a “northerner”, it does, however, stimulate some thought to provoke questions…..

What is the “Northern Powerhouse”? Why does it have a “brand”? Why is it a separate policy to other UK investment? Why has this taken so long to be recognised? Is this the first movement towards a northern devolution??

Here in the North, we have survived booms and recessions continuing to innovate and manufacture the greatest British products often without the support and the infrastructure long needed. For a long time the fantastic Manufacturing, Engineering, Energy and Scientific industry of the North has been raising the bar for innovation and manufacturing.

The Northern Powerhouse is the brainchild of George Osborne who recognised the importance of Northern industry contribution to the UK economy current and future. When thinking about how this should be recognised perhaps we in the North aren’t the best at promoting our successes and needed this brand in a time when too often investment looked inwardly to the capital. This explains the second question that rightly or wrongly it required promotion. It is interesting however, that there has been an inherent perversity of local authorities having control of only five per cent of their money raised within their boundaries meaning to a certain extent it has had limited control on investment. So then can this be seen as the beginnings of devolution of the North? Separate policy and funding for areas of the UK? More control over funding? It certainly suggests that whichever political party wants to win the next general election will need to have a clear policy towards devolution.

Rightly, wrongly or belatedly it has been brought to the attention of the government and actioned and should be seen not as a huge win but a step in the right direction for the government and attitudes towards Northern innovation and industry. For me, working within Northern industry, we have always been a Northern Powerhouse and it is finally being recognised what a huge value the North has in shaping the future post-Brexit economy. We should never have needed the branding from the current government but it has generated significant support and backing across the UK. Looking into the funding, the details are as follows:

The £556m investment that will be split between the region’s 11 local enterprise partnerships.

The cash boost, first announced in the Autumn Statement, will go towards a series of projects including Goole Intermodal Terminal, £10m for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund, and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland.

The government said a key part of the strategy’s green paper, published today (23 January 2017), was offer to businesses the chance to strike new ‘sector deals’, driven by the interests of companies and the people they employ, to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities.

As part of the deals, a range of support will be on offer, including addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth, looking at how trade and investment deals can be used to increase exports or supporting the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills.

The green paper also sets out technologies where Britain has strengths in research and development which could be supported through the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, including: smart energy technologies; robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology. This fund is part of £4.7bn of additional R&D funding announced by the Prime Minister in November.

In the North of England, £556m will be spent on a series of projects. They include:

  • Goole Intermodal Terminal which will mean the town’s existing rail, sea, motorway and inland waterway links into one site, providing an integrated transport facility for business
  • A 21st-century conference centre and hotel in Blackpool at the Winter Gardens
  • £10m for the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund to provide capital to local small and medium businesses
  • Flood resilience measures in Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Kirklees and Leeds
  • Building the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland and South Tyneside – helping to create an estimated 5,200 jobs

In addition, the government has revealed how the Northern Powerhouse funding pot will be split among the region’s LEPs:

  • North Eastern £49.7m
  • Cumbria £12.7m
  • Tees Valley £21.8m
  • York, North Yorkshire, East Riding £23.7m
  • Lancashire £69.8m
  • Humber £27.9m
  • Leeds City Region £67.5m
  • Liverpool City Region £72.0m
  • Greater Manchester £130.1m
  • Sheffield City Region £37.8m
  • Cheshire and Warrington £43.3m


To conclude the investment in the Northern Powerhouse will go a long way to providing much-needed funding to promote business opportunities in local industry. It remains to be seen but it remains to be seen whether this paves the way for Northern Devolution.

wind energy
Lack of energy policy affecting new UK projects

On 18th November the UK government

ratified the Paris Agreement to mitigate CO2 emissions from 2020.  Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is hailing this move as a “clear signal that cutting emissions globally will not only help countries respond to the impact of climate change, [but one that] is also compatible with economic growth.”

However, Mr Clarke is guilty of limiting the UK’s economic growth by delaying the announcement of the government’s energy policy and their subsequent priorities for reducing carbon emissions through new power generation projects.  The government’s lack of focus on energy in the Autumn statement frustrated many businesses, leading the CEO of Inenco Group, Gary Stokes, to write an open letter to Mr Clarke, stating “Businesses were hopeful that the Autumn Statement would deliver more clarity, from the future of the Carbon Price Support, to the cost of supporting low carbon technology beyond 2020 and were left disappointed at the lack of focus on energy.”

Like many businesses focused on the UK energy sector, Perpetual Partnerships is hoping that the government will provide clarity on how it plans to meet the obligations of the Paris Agreement and allow the sector to move forward with new projects sooner rather than later.

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.

history of engineering
A Timeline Of UK Engineering

What Is Engineering?

The accepted definition of engineering is ‘the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building and use of engines, machines and structures’.

It isn’t surprising to learn that the term ‘engineer’ was first used in a military context, to describe a maker of machines used for this purpose, e.g. catapults.

The roots of the word ‘engine’ go back a little further, to the 13th century, when the word, derived from the Latin ‘ingenium’ was first used to describe a product of “innate quality, especially mental power, hence a clever invention.” (This description comes from Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of 2006).

So, from these broad roots, it’s unsurprising that ‘engineering’ has come to have such a diverse meaning, but essentially covering innovation in and manufacturing of clever machines, devices and solutions to physical-world problems.

The Three Phases Of Engineering Innovation

Engineering can be thought of as having developed in three waves, and we will split this article to cover one each of these. These are, in chronological order, the industrial/Victorian age, the motor age, and the computer/digital age. To keep these articles reasonably ‘bite-sized’, we will split them into one for each of these categories, beginning with when the industrial development of the UK as we know it is generally considered to have begun in earnest.

The industrial/Victorian Age And The Beginning Of Mass Production

In its earliest days, the evolution of engineering was heavily associated with improvements in practises in agriculture, designed to boost productivity, and remove some of the manual labour involved in planting and harvesting crops.

This led to the invention of new tools which helped greatly improve the health of farm workers through reducing the effort needed to plant and harvest crops, notably the refinement of the seed drill developed by Jethro Tull, and first used in the UK in 1701 – which allowed for even spacing of seeds as they were planted, so greatly increasing yields and productivity.

Unknotting Problems In Textile Production

But the true father of modern industrial methods is generally considered to be Sir Richard Arkwright. Again, his innovations were designed to improve productivity, but his field of specialism was the textiles industry, which was growing strongly in his native Derbyshire and elsewhere across the Midlands and northern England.

Arkwright’s first taste of entrepreneurship came when he tried to set up a business travelling around the country buying human hair to use to make wigs. Although this soon ran into trouble, he had made good contacts among working cotton weavers and spinners, and used these to help him refine James Hargreaves’ original ‘Spinning Jenny’ design, to produce a machine which involved less physical labour, yet produced a stronger yarn. He patented his wool carding machine in 1775.

Before his death, in 1792, Arkwright also became the first man to adapt James Watt’s invention of the steam engine to use it as a means of powering a loom for producing cotton. Arguably the first industrial tycoon, he established factories in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire and Scotland, and became a wealthy man.

Building The Links Between Goods And Their Markets

Once the products of these huge new mills started to be produced in large amounts, the next hurdle to making them widely available to the people was to develop a transport infrastructure which allowed all parts of the country to be accessed reasonably easily.

So the next major development was the development of railways – and again, engineering expertise was the facilitator which enabled them to be developed and spread widely.

Historian David Starkie has argued that the roads, canals, railways and ports which made Britain into the first great worldwide industrial power could not have come about without the foresight of the first generation of consulting engineers: “Shareholders took most of the risks, but specialists took the strategic decisions, initially the consulting engineers,” he wrote.

Foremost among these was George Stephenson, who built the world’s first commercially-viable locomotive, and went on to design and build the world’s first public railway, which ran from Stockton to Darlington, on Teesside, and opened in 1825. He followed this with the first railway to run directly between two major cities, the Liverpool and Manchester railway of 1830.

However, Stephenson only did for the railways what Thomas Telford had achieved for canals, a generation earlier. These provided the first means of transporting bulk quantities of goods over long distances. Compared with railways, canals required minimal engineering, as many were cut in straight lines as far as possible. But the engineering expertise came into its own when they required bridges (aqueducts) and locks, as means of carrying them across valleys and up and down steep inclines. In devising notable means of doing this, such as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen in north Wales, Telford was the first person to challenge the preconception that man-made structures had to fit in with, and where needed, around, existing natural features. So its opening, in 1805, became a template for the work of Stephenson just a few decades later.

Engineering’s Role In Creating An Empire

In this context, you could argue that the first true engineers to have an impact on our country were, in fact, the Romans. That’s because they realised the importance of being able to travel quickly between their major settlements – not just so that they could stay abreast of what was happening, but also in order to be able to easily transport goods in and out. So they built a network of roads which eventually stretched to more than 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometres), much of which is still in use today.

Roman engineers loved a challenge – they would rather have found a solution to enable them to build a road straight across an obstacle than take a more circuitous route around it.

In many ways, their desire to find long-term solutions to a problem which might only, in itself, be short-term or temporary, has been the founding principle of engineering ever since. It’s certainly what has distinguished many of the great pioneers of the discipline whose work has helped change the face of our country.

So when Britain was itself in expansionist mood throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, it was realised that expertise in building a working infrastructure, and routes which could be used for trade purposes, was one of the most important assets it could spread around the world.

In a second article in this series, we will look at the advent of motorisation and mass production, and examine how these formed the basis for the world we live in today.

Engineering, in its many forms, has been elementary in creating the modern, prosperous society we live in today. If you want to play a major part in keeping that prosperity going long into the future, why not consider directing your talents towards a career in one of the many sectors of modern engineering?

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.

3D printing
How Manufacturing Has Changed Over The Years

The landscape and main features of the UK’s industries and manufacturing have changed beyond all recognition over the past two centuries – and in turn, these have wrought massive transformations in the lives of the people involved in them, and on the communities in which they live.

In the main, these advances have been focused on new and improved means of production, along with improvements in materials used in manufacturing processes, which in turn have brought about many less labour-intensive and safer methods of manufacturing many of the goods we use but often take for granted in our daily lives.


Early Days To The Present Day – How Far Have We Come?

According to the national census of 1841, 36% of the UK population worked in manufacturing. By 2011, that figure was down to just a quarter of this proportion, reflecting a major shift away from labour-intensive types of manufacturing to more skilled and specialised fields.

And whereas in the 19th century, there were various pockets of manufacturing spread widely across the country, by the early 21st century, the country’s remaining manufacturing capacity had become heavily concentrated in particular areas, with Corby, in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands boasting the highest proportion of its population working in manufacturing, at 23.7%, or nearly one in four of the town’s entire workforce.

Today, manufacturing is generally on a much smaller scale, and because of this, it has become part of a much broader base of communities throughout the country.

And whereas much manufacturing in the British Isles in the 19th and 20th centuries was heavy, labour-intensive work, today there is much more emphasis on smaller, precision-made items – and indeed, one of the biggest growth areas of the next few years looks set to be in nano-technology, whereby the items manufactured are measured in tiny fractions of an inch or centimetre – to give you some idea, one inch (2.54 centimetres) is equal to 25.4million nanometres.

But it isn’t just in terms of scale that we can measure how manufacturing has progressed over time. Oxford Economics has singled out the main current drivers of change in manufacturing as ‘Big Data”, the internet of things, mobile computing, and the cloud.


Other Big Landmarks

Professor Pat Hudson collaborated with the BBC in 2011 on a series called The Workshop Of The World, which examined how Britain came to earn that title.

He pinpointed technology as one of the main drivers of change, but also the fact that ways in which production was organised helped the nation keep its place as a major economic power. In turn, the latter helped bring prices down, meaning that the new machinery started to come within the means of the average household.

The 1790s to 1860s were years of massive change in the way industry was financed, and parallel population growth also meant the plentiful availability of labour for the new industrial processes which were coming to the fore.

While in the early part of this period, canals were the main transport arteries for getting goods from A to B, by the end of this time, the period which historians call The Railway Age was in full swing. The new steam-powered engines hauled passenger carriages and freight wagons, and provided fast, direct connections between all major towns and cities, as well as linking more isolated communities with their main markets.

However, there were huge differences in the relative pace of industrialisation across different parts of the country – and even though the stereotypical picture of the industrial landscape at this time is of many hundreds of workers toiling away in huge, warehouse-style factories, much production remained on a very small scale, which gave rise to the phrase ‘cottage industries’, which we still use today to describe businesses which operate at a micro level.

Today, the pendulum has swung the other way, and while there has been a huge decline in the number of people working in manufacturing – the sector employed 36 per cent of the working-age population in 1841, but by 2011 that had shrunk to nine per cent – that statistic alone paints a distorted picture.

Overall, manufacturing has grown by 1.4 per cent a year since 1948, according to the government’s number-crunchers at the Office for National Statistics.


Small Is Beautiful (Again)

But this growth has largely been achieved against a backdrop of a return to smaller-scale manufacturing – with many businesses working in highly-specialised fields and employing far fewer staff than their large predecessors.

Rather than trying to compete with the new, emerging industrial nations such as China, Russia and India – where the UK is at a massive disadvantage in terms of the size of its available workforce, which means these countries can produce many basic necessities, such as coal, iron and steel, far more cheaply – the UK has therefore shifted the focus of its industrial base to production of specialised items, and those which are in greatest demand in the world’s most developed nations (sometimes referred to as the G8).

One of the biggest ‘new’ sectors to have emerged in recent times is the manufacture of semiconductors. From $33billlion (£24.9 billion) in 1987, the value of the total world market for these is forecast to have grown to 10 times that size in the ensuing 30 years.

Semiconductors and computer chips are at the heart of most of the devices we use today – yet in its character and scale this industry is light years away from those which we once considered to be the main drivers of our economy.

The main differences between this industry and older ones on which Britain’s manufacturing capability was founded are:

  • It is more highly skilled: Its workforce has faced up to the challenge of producing far more complex items, which has meant it has needed workers with more specialised knowledge;
  • It produces far higher-value goods: Today’s manufacturing workforce in the UK is concentrated in sectors which produce more highly-specialised, higher-value goods, such as the semiconductors mentioned earlier, but also vehicles and accessories, and other components for computers and connected devices;
  • It doesn’t involve most of its workers getting their hands dirty: It might only be a small detail, but this is one of the most significant. Working in a steel mill, or down a coal mine, were notoriously grimy jobs. Today’s factory floor is more likely to be staffed by people in neat overalls, or even white coats, rather than boiler suits.
  • Working hours are more widely controlled: While it remains to be seen whether there will be any changes resulting from Brexit, at the time of writing, the UK still has controls over a worker’s maximum number of working hours. However, such regulations only came into force in 1988, and up to this time, the number of hours each employee worked was a result of either direct negotiations between employer and employee, or their trade union.
  • The UK’s workers are generally more productive than those in our biggest competitors: Official figures show that the price of goods produced in the UK per hour worked is the lowest of all the G7 countries except China. So this shows the scale of our emphasis on higher-value, specialised products.
  • Technology and automation are at the heart of everything we make: While there are many successful companies still making humble, basic industrial components such as screws and washers, the UK has fully embraced what’s sometimes called ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ – which its proponents say will take the advances produced by mass digitisation of the systems and information we all now use and need, and take them in new, as yet unanticipated, directions. Finally;
  • We are living in a global economy: Exporting has always been an important element of the UK’s achievements and standing in the world. But while at the time of writing, there is much discussion over how our relationship with the rest of the European Union will change as a consequence of Brexit, it has never been easier for anyone to share and distribute data, information, and physical goods, around the world. The growth of transport and logistics networks has happened as a necessary consequence of this greater need for the ability to get goods to anywhere in the world – and in turn, it has become a new industrial sector in its own right.


Salt Of The Earth

Here in Cheshire, of course, we still have the remnants of one of the longest-surviving large-scale industries anywhere in the UK – salt mining and processing.

Salt has been mined in the areas around Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich since Roman times, and while it continues to this day, the uses to which the raw product is put have changed massively.

Improved techniques have also greatly increased the amount of time a salt production plant can spend in operation between ‘boil out’ periods – that is, the times which are spent out of use for deep cleaning of the salt from all moving parts so as to avoid corrosion.

While salt mining and processing is one of the few industries which has remained at the heart of Cheshire’s economy throughout its history, it has fared somewhat better than other traditional industries – and is well-placed to stay as a major feature of our landscape for many years to come.

But our industrial landscape has also changed, in line with the advances outlined earlier in this article. And as our future prosperity depends heavily on our continued ability to lead in both old and new industries, how well we adapt to these changes, and others which no-one can yet foresee, will be key to our future prospects.
What have been the most striking – and important – changes in the industrial landscape you have witnessed in your lifetime, and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know on our Facebook page.

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.

brexit EU
Will Brexit hit UK Manufacturing?

It’s a hot topic just now – as the country starts to take in the ramifications of the decisive vote on 23 June, when the electorate decided by 55% to 45% that Britain’s future lay outside the European Union, every part of the economy is digesting the news, and trying to make sense of what it means for their future plans and direction.

No decision taken by voters in half a century is expected to have such a wide impact on the country’s future – and even though the outcome was decisive, disentangling ties and trading arrangements built up over that time is sure to be a protracted process, and one which is sure to bring to the surface tensions and differences which a mere half-century make seem like a temporary spat.

So before the talks get under way in earnest, now is the time for sober reflection, and possibly considered thought over what a world outside the EU might look like.

The Rollercoaster Takes A Dip

But there are reasons to think that the early signs of prospects for manufacturing and engineering in the UK aren’t good. A report at the end of July from the Engineering Employers’ Federation found that members’ confidence had dipped in all parts of the UK since the EU referendum result had been announced.

The Federation’s annual report uses data gathered from members, along with the government’s Office for National Statistics to draw a picture of the levels of confidence among manufacturers. It came to the unequivocal conclusion that “manufacturers’ business confidence has taken an across the board beating”, with every English and Welsh region registering a downturn in optimism.

Measuring participants’ confidence as a score out of 10, the EEF found that it had dropped from 6.37 pre-referendum to 5.24 in the weeks which followed.

In the north-west, the degree to which many manufacturers depend on continuing support from an overseas parent business was laid bare, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) expressing fears over whether they might continue to be treated fairly. More generally, nearly six out to 10 firms in this region identified their biggest concern as possible weaker demand for their products.

Worryingly, a quarter of manufacturers in the north-west of England claimed they couldn’t see any new opportunities arising for them as a result of Brexit.

When it comes to what manufacturers want to see in order that confidence can be built,  a solid business environment, supportive policies and the right outcome from Brexit negotiations should get sentiment back on track.

While recognising the scale of the negative sentiment in the sector in general, Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at the EEF, nevertheless reiterated that engineering firms have experienced all kinds of economic conditions, and have often succeeded by facing such challenges head-on.

“The referendum outcome has provided a jolt and it’s clear that there are fresh challenges ahead,” she said.


Time For ‘UK plc’ To Show Its Mettle

“Exchange rate volatility, political uncertainty and the danger of increased costs are already causing concern across the regions and business confidence is in short supply. But our sector is nothing if not dynamic, determined and resilient. UK manufacturing remains a force to be reckoned with.”

She stressed, however, that “a solid business environment, supportive policies and the right outcome from Brexit negotiations allowing for trade and ongoing access to skilled workers” were now essential for ensuring that the sector could defy the doom-mongers and find a clear path forward.

Tom Lawton, partner and head of manufacturing at accountancy firm BDO – which co-compiles the EEF’s report – added that many businesses had had time to adapt to the likely outcome ahead of the vote, and said its outcome “should not detract from the fact that UK manufacturing performance over the last 12 months has been strong with six (out of ten) regions seeing an increase in output.”

He said many businesses would be heartened by the promise from Prime Minister Theresa May of “a proper industrial strategy”, and challenged her by adding: “We would like to see the Government match manufacturers’ long-term outlook by developing a 15-20 year industrial policy that avoids the disruptions of the political cycle.”


Weaker Pound To Come To The Rescue?

Industry editor for the Telegraph, Alan Tovey, noting that the manufacturing sector still  represents 10 per cent of the UK’s £1.8 trillion GDP, added that the depreciation of sterling against other currencies since the ‘leave’ vote should, in the short term at least, provide a boost, because it “makes exports cheaper, with buying British becoming more attractive to foreign purchasers who suddenly find their currency goes a lot further.”

At the same time, he added, it should also mean “a short-term boost to Britain’s internal market, with manufacturers more likely to source components for their products domestically as buying abroad becomes more expensive.”

Sales among UK manufacturing companies are split roughly equally among Europe, the United States and the rest of the world, pointed out Jo Reedman, senior capital goods analyst at N+1 Singer. As a result, she agreed that the weaker pound should bolster efforts to remain competitive and sell products well beyond the boundaries of the EU.


Mixed Messages For The Motor Industry

With the UK’s motor industry boasting very strong international – not just European – links, Prof David Bailey, an analyst of the sector from Aston University, Birmingham, said Brexit would be a double-edged sword. While it will make exports more competitive, and so possibly boost sales, with consequent increases in production to meet demand, “it will also increase the cost of importing components, and about 60pc of the components that go into UK assembled cars are imported.”

Given that, under the Lisbon Treaty, the negotiations which will eventually lead to the UK breaking its formal ties with the rest of the EU could take up to two years – and that includes provisions for negotiating alternative trade agreements – it’s expected that many firms will continue with ‘business as usual’ for the immediate future, and there should be no reasons why this approach won’t bear fruit.

But, as Capita Translating – a business which has a vested interest in see the UK continue to trade with as many nations around the world as possible – points out: “The bad news is that trade deals take an excruciatingly long time to negotiate – in 2009 the EU ended a 15-year dispute with Latin American countries over importing bananas! But, being such a big trade partner to the EU means they are more likely to want to agree a deal quicker.”

So, for now, there are no reasons why prospects for manufacturing in the UK should be downgraded. And indeed, right now, with a low pound, and existing trading agreements still running their course, it’s a good time to be looking to spread the ‘Made in the UK’ message anywhere around the world.

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.

Responsible people
The Outlook For Hiring Staff In 2016

Job interview cartoon

2016 is likely to be the year here in the UK when we really find out how strong the much-touted economic recovery is.

On the face of it, many of the building blocks seem to be in place to enable the country to enjoy a prosperous year – we have a majority government for the first time in five years, inflation is benign, and unemployment is low and still falling.

In fact, in the three months to November 2015, 5.1 per cent of the working age population were jobless – this compares with a long-term average of just under 7.2 per cent throughout the period from 1971 to 2015.


Hooking The Right Fish In A Smaller Pool

When the number of jobless people falls to such low levels, this brings a new set of challenges for any business needing to hire new workers.

It means that the pool of readily-available recruits is small, with skills shortages leaving small and medium-sized businesses facing the prospect of having to pay more to secure the right people.

In such conditions, employers may also have to re-examine the matches between the job roles they are looking to fill and the candidates available, meaning that they may have to take on an employee who does not fulfil all their criteria. As a result, this might also lead to them having to examine the training they offer, as a result of bringing in new people who might not have the optimal amount of directly relevant experience.


David Vs Goliath

The big question for many smaller firms in need of staff as they hope to grow is whether they will be able to compete effectively with better-known, often multi-national concerns for the best people available.

Those smaller companies can expect to have to fight hard to attract and retain their best staff, especially when bigger firms can offer established, attractive packages of fringe benefits, such as pension schemes and flexible working policies designed to suit those juggling their career with family responsibilities.


The Advantages Of A Small Business

This is where the advantages of using a specialist recruitment agency dedicated to finding staff in particular business and industry sectors can come into their own.

These companies survive by virtue of their deep knowledge of the business sectors in which they specialise, and their ability to network effectively and discreetly with employers and candidates working in these fields. They would much rather retain a smaller base of both, and focus really closely on understanding and meeting their needs, than set out to corner the market, and have a wide spectrum of clients to try to keep happy.

Also, as a smaller business itself, such a company will have an instinctive understanding of and connection with other SMEs in their chosen sectors. It will know the challenges facing anyone running a small firm, and this will mean it can find candidates who have the right mentality to fit in, and who appreciate the particular challenges of working in such a setting.

That’s where we at Perpetual Recruitment come in. Our motto: “We don’t just understand your business, we live your business” is backed up by an organisation which is set up to service the respective sectors it works with to the highest standards.

We have dedicated recruitment specialists for the oil and gas, surveying and architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and executive recruitment fields. This means we have a team which truly understands what you do, and the current climate and particular challenges your business faces.

Big isn’t necessarily beautiful when you’re looking for a partner to help you meet the challenges of building the ideal team for your business. In fact, if you want to build a loyal and happy workforce from the bottom up, you should look at linking up with a like-minded agency which can spare the time to really get to know your business.

That way, you can put yourself in the happy position of being able to compete effectively in a crowded market, and choose from a field of candidates who are on your wavelength. So search out a specialist recruitment company, and the road to expanding your business can be made much smoother.

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.


Female engineer
There’s A Lack Of Female Engineers

Engineering The Future: Exploring The Lack Of Women In The Industry

Great engineers have never been in such short supply. Here in the UK, projected figures suggest that, as a nation, we’ll need to recruit 2 million new engineers during the next decade.

Nobody can contest the demand for high quality professionals to enter into the industry, however the issue of recruitment remains one of the largest threats to great British engineering. This problem is further exacerbated by the extreme lack of females entering into the sector.

Statistics show that 94% of the engineering workforce are male. As an industry, it’s crucial that we address this balance. Not only in order to meet the demand for jobs, but also to remain able to provide the very best solutions for clients. Both sexes bring different capabilities and vision to the table. By balancing the workforce we position ourselves to successfully solve the problems of the future and cater successfully to client requirements.

To counter the problem, we must first understand its multifaceted nature. Is it that women are reluctant to join the engineering world? Or could the problem be that a notoriously male dominated industry is intimidating for female recruits?


Education Matters

We have to consider the fact that, as a country, we perhaps deskill our female engineers from childhood. How many of our young girls are given toys such as Lego, Mechano, cars and building materials to play with? Compare this to the toy box of a boy. Boys are given what society regards as male toys.Female Engineers Working On Plane

These toys are known to help develop spatial intelligence and problem solving capabilities, therefore, the types of skills required to become an excellent future engineer. Meanwhile, our girls, their future chances already being affected by their gender, are developing their nurturing and social skills by traditionally playing with dolls and skipping ropes.

This message is, sadly, reinforced throughout educational establishments. Girls, having been deskilled during their early education, excel in the arts and humanities subjects at secondary level. They outshine the boys academically in both science and maths, mature more quickly and are much more likely to follow the rules.

Meanwhile, the boys are building strong social networks through sporting endeavours and their often boisterous, explorative behaviour is attributed to “boys being boys” whereas this behaviour would result in reprimand for their female counterparts. All the while the boys are developing those vital, on the job skills that great engineers require, whilst the girls are busy getting the grades on paper.

Could it be that their academic success is resulting in girls being recommended to take the more traditional, academically accepted, employment routes? Is a career advisor likely to suggest engineering to female students? As a nation, we must address the imbalances within our education system to truly level the playing field for both sexes in the future.

Furthermore, the profile of engineering must first be raised within our educational establishments and its dirty, manly facade, must but be eroded as inaccurate. Careers advisors and young people themselves, should be armed with the facts about the diverse and exciting nature of working within the sector.


Gearing Towards The Future

We must aim to recruit across a representative cross-section of society in order that we remain current and able to problem solve effectively; focussing on providing world leading solutions. Once recruited, we need to ensure that there are successful, supportive female mentors and role models, working in industry, to support the new wave of female engineers.

To that point, our parent company Cygnet Group has been taking the lead in the push for new female apprentices in the Engineering industry. Just recently, Cygnet Texkimp took on two new apprentice females, as apart of their excellent Apprenticeship Academy. We wish them all the best in their roles and offer our support to fruitful, thriving career in the sector.

By remaining in the male dominated past and continuing to alienate 50% of available recruits, the UK engineering sector risks its future. Engineering companies must launch a PR offensive in the coming years, in order to ensure that, when considering their future career options, engineering is an attractive option for young people with the appropriate skills, regardless of gender.

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.

perpetual cars
Perpetual Partnerships Corporate Event 2015 – Pageant of Power, Cholmondeley Castle
Described as ‘the UK’s most dynamic motorsport event’ the Pageant of Power at Cholmondeley Castle was an obvious choice to host a number of our self-described ‘petrol-head’ clients and it certainly lived up to expectations.

Set in the stunning surrounds of the castle grounds adjacent to Deer Park Mere the hospitality tent was perfectly placed by the start line with easy access to view both the water and road activities. The entertainment included drag, rally, F1, super and classic car racing as well as world class trial and side-car motorcycles on the road. The water boasted wake boarding, jet-ski displays and rib rides. These provided great viewing as well as listening (apart from the electric versions) and truly represented the Pageant’s slogan of ‘celebrating power in all its forms’.

A variety of different clients joined us across the different business sectors of surveying, manufacturing, engineering and oil and gas. They took full part in soaking up the hospitality and entertainment available. They also enjoyed some of the wider stalls and experiences including electric motorbikes, model car racing and Landrover experience although none dared to take on the heights of a helicopter ride! As well as our guests Rob and John tried out their skills on two wheels with the electric bikes although it was a true case of tortoise versus the hare with no happy ending for the tortoise! We also enjoyed outstanding refreshments, especially the customary Pimm’s and afternoon tea. Above all whilst the hospitality was excellent, the company was even better and represented the perfect ‘thank you’ to all our recruitment partners. We look forward to doing it again soon.

Supercars F1

Electric Bikes Trail Bike

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:


IET dinner
IET Dinner

On Friday 6th February, I was invited to the Institution of Engineering and Technology annual dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool. It was described as ‘the premier networking event in the engineering and technology calendar, attended by 1000 engineers and industry leaders from over 67 of the most prominent international companies and organisations’. This diversity of industries was displayed on our table which included senior people from pharmaceutical, energy, automation, clothing, medical and composites sectors. As an outsider in a variety of early engineering conversations and introductions it struck me that the outlook for Northwest and UK engineering is as strong as ever. Key subject matters surrounded capital investment, the need for space and a subject close to my heart, recruitment. It seemed that most businesses were forging ahead with plans to invest and bring in top quality people which is a great sign for the upcoming years. Clearly these were not the only conversation topics as good food and drink was also on the menu!

The lead speaker was Juergen Maier, Chief Executive of Siemens whose speech was based around the Northwest being a historic heartland for engineering excellence which reminded me of Cygnets mission statement. He asked everyone to envisage a time of a century ago when it would be likely that everyone would be in a similar place, wearing similar (black tie) attire discussing pioneering engineering concepts and products. His passion and optimism for the future of UK engineering was clear and similarly to Perpetual’s philosophy he believed more strength would be created through partnerships and collaborations between companies with similar values and vision. It was a real pleasure to meet a great group of people with the same passion for the UK engineering future as we have at Cygnet and this could not have been phrased better than Neil Armstrong’s quote from a 2000 conference where he said ‘science is about what is; engineering is about what CAN BE’. After this night I truly believe UK engineering is alive and well!

The IET Annual Dinner event at Liverpool Hilton Hotel.

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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