Official data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the number of engineering contractors has increased by more than two thirds over the course of the last five years.

In 2011, there were 32,911 engineering contractors in employment. Last year, there were more than 55,000, representing a rise of 68 per cent. This indicates that the number of self-employed engineers has risen at more than three times the rate of the economy. Overall, self-employment has risen 17.5 per cent over this period – a considerably small comparison.

Similarly, the growth in permanently employed engineers has also been comparatively small – up just 0.9 per cent from 203,000 in 2011, to 205,000 in 2016.

Chief executive of UK-based accountancy firm Nixon Williams, Derek Kelly, commented on these findings: “Skills shortages in the engineering sector…[have] enabled engineers to be increasingly selective about work, which has made contracting more appealing.”

He acknowledges what he calls a shift towards a “more flexible and cost-effective workforce management” in the engineering sector which has contributed to this growth.

“Contractors are like a tap they can turn on and off as workloads vary, while they retain a relatively smaller core of permanent employees.”

Kelly also noted that women have driven much of the growth in the sector, but despite this fact still make up only 3 per cent of the contract engineering workforce.

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