What does Brexit mean for engineering recruitment?

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On Friday 24 June 2016, the UK electorate made its decision to leave the European Union. The news has been rife with expressions of uncertainty, worry and anxiety over what this will mean for the economy and a million other things. As far as engineering recruitment is concerned, what’s the deal? Are UK engineers’ jobs safe? Is there a reason to panic, or is it actually not all doom and gloom for jobs?

EU

First of all, most recruiters have many questions (as we all do). Askar Sheibani, CEO of Comtek, a provider of repairs, spares and support to the telecoms, datacoms, and network service industry, said: ”Critically, now Brexit has become a reality, changes are on the way and no-one knows quite how they’ll impact one another, or indeed, how deep the knife will cut.  Brexit is like a gaping wound that will take years to heal and no-one truly knows the scarring it will leave behind.”

The uncertainty of Brexit has shaken up some of the UK’s biggest recruiters. Aerospace giant Airbus, an employer with 10,000-plus employees in the UK alone, wrote to its workers expressing uncertainty of how the company will proceed with its facilities in Britain. Airbus currently has facilities across Europe, largely in France and Germany – and supports even more employees nationally through separate enterprises.

As it stands, it may react to the Brexit vote by moving some of its facilities to the continent. However, in a recent statement, Airbus said: ”We will work constructively with the UK Government to minimise any impact on our operations.  While we are disappointed, clearly we will continue to support our workforce and operate our UK facilities.” A lot can be said for this – in that currently, while things are being worked out so we can get the best result possible, there needn’t be cause for panic.

For some smaller companies, higher costs are already an issue. Family-run business Penny Hydraulics, based in Chesterfield is already facing extra expense. general manager and third-generation family member Jess Penny said: “We have seen a 13 per cent increase in the cost price of our new crane range overnight due to the exchange rate of the Euro.”

It is not only items imported from EU countries that are costing the company more. The company also imports winches from outside the EU. Jess comments: “We have purchased a batch of winches today; they will be £8,585 more expensive than they were yesterday due to this decision.”

Some companies are hugely keen to keep an open mind and demonstrate as much positivity as possible. Patrick Flaherty, chief executive of engineering firm AECOM UK & Ireland, said: ‘As the country faces a period of change and uncertainty, business must play a stabilising role. A positive, long-term focus on the future is required. At AECOM, we have demonstrated our ability to grow while dealing with change and we will work hard to minimise the impact on our UK operations. As a global company, we serve clients all over the world from our offices in the UK. Our strong team, diversification strategy and international outlook equip us with long-term resilience.”

A lot remains to be seen from many engineering companies, but from what most of them are currently saying, they want as little impact as possible on their businesses. The key word here is ‘negotiation’, rather than ‘uncertainty’. Each company will have its own negotiations with the EU, and while those are in motion, there’s currently no cause for panic or disruption. As we commonly say in Britain – it’s business as usual.

From Peter CEng MIET - Salisbury:

Irrespective of what any of us think, or feel, about Brexit, the most important thing is that we get past the initial stages of shock. Focussing our emotions on denial, anger and negative perspectives is not only depressing and self defeating, it also risks making the situation worse by presenting Britain as a country that can't cope.  We can, and we must, get on with the business of business.  We all need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get stuck into the task ahead.

Who knows, we may look back in a few years from now at a prospering Britain operating on a much broader global basis. Equally we might not. But wherever this leads we need to all work together to secure the best possible outcome.

No more self flagellation please - lt is really important that we all pull together and start looking ahead. 

What are your views on the Brexit vote? Do you feel like your job is at risk, or is there too much panicking? Email me at etj.editor@theiet.org 

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