Britain’s biggest consultant Atkins is the latest firm to cut staff, announcing that it will shed 260 across its UK architecture and engineering divisions due to worsening market conditions.
Consultant Buro Happold is to cut 10% globally and Faber Maunsell Aecom 4% from its European buildings and transportation divisions, bringing the total number of redundancies in the company
The fresh wave of redundancies follows cuts in most of the UK’s major consulting engineering firms – Arup, Scott Wilson, WSP and Mouchel have all shed jobs recently (News last week).
Provisional findings from returns for NCE’s Consultants File 2009 indicate that two thirds of consultants saw an average 20% drop in workload last year and are predicting another 10%
fall this year. Many of these firms are making cuts to reflect this reduced workload. The other third grew last year and most are predicting further growth this year.
The gloomy prospects for some sectors of the industry are now reflected in the number of calls to the ICE Benevolent Fund helpline, which exists to provide advice, support and financial assistance to all members that need help. The total number of calls made in 2008 was double that in 2007, with a surge in December that has continued this month.
"We have noticed an increase in interest, particularly in the last couple of months. People are wanting to know their redundancy rights and looking into the out placement scheme which helps engineers get back into work by providing advice on CVs and jobs," said an ICE spokesman.
"We haven’t had many calls for financial help yet as engineers are getting by on their redundancy packages, but we expect to see more later on in the year."
The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) warned against radical redundancy policies, which could see skilled engineers leave the profession and firms unable to recover in
a period of economic growth due to skills shortages.
"Like many other businesses at the moment, ACE member firms will have to take action to sustain themselves through the current downturn," said ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin.
"Whatever challenges they face, it is crucial that any actions taken to ride out the recession do not affect a firm’s ability to retain its skills base for when the economy picks up again."
Those engineers that are seeking work after being made redundant may be forced to accept a pay cut due to the increased competition for jobs, warned recruitment consultants.
"Given the downturn, it is to be expected that in the main we are seeing salaries decreasing," said a Hays Civil & Structural spokesman.
"Redundancies among contract staff have resulted in many opting for permanent positions, which will mean a lower salary."
There are still some areas affected by a skills shortage where civil engineers are in a stronger position.
"Those professionals who have specific skills and experience with niche packages, will continue to be in demand and can still command a high salary," said Hays