In the UK there is a shortage of engineers. University applications for engineering courses have been on the decline for decades, with many institutions finding it hard to attract candidates to the field. This is despite there being a need for all kinds of engineers across the sector. However, despite this shortfall, it doesn’t mean that getting a job in engineering is easy. Many positions still require candidates with a high level of training and education. Plus, the all-important experience also comes into play.
In fact, what many industry insiders mean when they talk about a shortage of engineers, is that there aren’t enough candidates with the right mix of technical ability, skills and experience in the right areas. However, if you are an engineering graduate who is struggling to find the right position – particularly here in Norwich – then there are a few things you can do to boost your chances.
With the right mix of planning, research and career action, you can make yourself very attractive to a whole range of Norwich-based engineering firms. Many of these companies are looking for the right people to help their business grow. Do the following and you could end up ticking a lot of their boxes, landing the engineering job of your dreams.
University is a time to have fun, make friends and try new things. However, in the main it is about achieving academically. Most major firms won’t accept graduates with anything less than a 2:1 so make sure you study hard.
However, if you really want to get ahead then use this time to accrue experience too. Rather than spending your summers stacking shelves, apply for work experience and extracurricular engineering programmes that will boost your CV. If a company sees that you have gone the extra mile to get an experience you will be at the top of their list. In your first year, think about how you want your CV to look when you graduate and set about making it happen. Don’t wait until your final year to start bulking up your CV as by that time you’ll have exams to concentrate on.
Take opportunities to gain experience
Many university courses now come with an opportunity to work for a year in industry. Take this chance to get experience working in the real world. It is often the case that graduates end up working at their placement destinations, usually because they have used the opportunity to prove themselves capable. If nothing else, then this year will be an invaluable experience to list on your CV.
You should also remember that experience doesn’t just come from learning practical skills. Employers want to see that you have learnt organisation and management techniques. Get involved in societies and clubs at university and try to take a leadership role. Employers love to see well rounded CVs that prove you’re not just about the calculations.
Tailor your job applications
Job applications can take ages. Filling out all the required forms, writing your letter of intent – all of this takes time. And if you’re applying for several jobs at the same time it can be tempting to cut corners. But nothing turns a company off more than template letters or putting the wrong company name on a form. Make sure you spend time tailoring your application to the job in hand, and proofread everything you submit over and over until you are happy. It’s often the case that a firm will see hundreds of applications for one position, so don’t give them an easy reason for yours to end up on the reject pile.
You also need to demonstrate that you understand the job for which you are applying. Try to tailor your application to meet the specific criteria in the job description. Applicants often make the mistake of thinking that quantity is better than quality and this is not always the case. It is better to send out one or two highly specific applications to the right firms than to use a scatter gun approach.
Make the first move
Don’t always wait to see jobs advertised before you apply. Companies often have turnovers of staff and sometimes don’t have the ability to go through the recruitment process from start to finish. So, write to them or call and send your CV to the relevant person and you may be considered for future roles. It may not be the right time for them or you could end up going in for a chat about your prospects the next day – these things do happen. Remember that they aren’t going to come looking for you, so you have to put yourself in the shop window.
Don’t give up
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the first, second or even the tenth job you apply for. Keep looking for experience and building on your CV and the right position will come along. Engineering jobs are highly specialised and often positions don’t come up that often, so sometimes it’s just about waiting for your moment. Keep applying and contacting the relevant people because even if this job is not meant for you, you may be perfect for the next role that comes up.
Once you get your foot in the door, take every opportunity to build further experience and ask questions. Take on responsibility where possible because when the time comes to move up the ladder – whether internally or externally – you need that experience to make the leap.
Here in Norwich, the engineering industry is doing very well. Thanks largely to the presence of world class institutions such as the University of East Anglia, there is a well-established tradition of engineering in the area. Although the proximity of such a large talent base of students means competition for positions will be fierce, it also means that the standard of work here is also very high. So, if you do land a job in the city, you will be working with some of the best and brightest engineering graduates in the country. That’s not a bad way to start any career.