Scottish engineers raise staffing and cost concerns

Energy costs have been raised as a “significant concern” for Scottish engineers, on top of continued high prices for raw material and components.

This was the headline from industry body Scottish Engineering’s latest Quarterly Review, which noted that while output and orders placed are broadly positive, cost increases don’t appear to be stabilising.

Order intake, output volume and exports are at their most positive since 2018, with staffing intentions remaining close to recent best at net 17% positive – although member feedback pointed out the challenge of actually filling the vacancies.

“More than ever, this has proven difficult as all resources become increasingly scarce, and the impacts of Brexit – still far from done – are evident in staffing, logistics and concern that import checks scheduled for the New Year may bring further headaches,” read the report.

“Our optimism comes from a sector that has survived remarkably intact after the most brutal of recent economic downturns, enacting all the learnings from recent, crippling recessions that allowed it to balance spending in a way that ensured survival.”

Despite skills challenges, the latest quarterly survey showed that training investment is positive, with a 37% increase for the next three months indicated.

Scottish Engineering’s chief executive Paul Sheerin added: “One year ago when the path of the pandemic was less clear, manufacturers would have bitten your hand off for the recovery of demand which has continued for three successive quarters now.

“But it’s tempered by persistent headwinds in material and logistics costs and availability, with little sign of improvement to bring some optimism, so it’s no surprise that our average of responses forecast this situation will remain until the second half of 2022.”

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