Pay attention

Published: 05 Jun 2015 By Stuart Nathan

If there’s one thing engineers like — at least judging from the feedback we receive via this website — it’s complaining about their salaries. Of course, you could probably say the same about any industrial sector; but in our upcoming issue, which will reach readers next week, we set the facts straight with the inaugural Engineer Salary Survey.

You may remember that we invited responses to our survey a couple of months ago, and readers replied in strength. With over 4000 respondents answering questions on a variety of work-related topics, we think our survey is the largest of its kind in the UK. It gives us much-needed hard information about where engineers in various engineering and manufacturing sectors are employed, how old they are, how happy they are in their work, the gender divide in the sectors and — of course — how much they are paid.

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Oil and gas: highest-paying sector on average

One surprising finding is that regardless of their job satisfaction — and only 35 per cent think their salaries suitably reflect their workload —over 80 per cent of engineers in each sector expect to be in their current job for the next five years. By age, the largest percentage of engineers are in the 50-54 band, while only 12 per cent are under 30: a confirmation of the looming skills gap in the next ten years as the older cohort retires. Gender disparity is also marked: just 5.5 per cent of respondents were women, and their average salary was almost £8000 per year lower than the male average. Another marked disparity is between the pay-rates at in the various sectors: average annual pay for oil and gas engineers, who are at the top of the pay scale, is over £13000 higher than for the food and drink sector, at the bottom. This disparity is even harsher as careers develop: at director level or above, an engineer in the defense sector earns over £28000 more than in the food and drink sector.

We will be publishing a longer version of the survey analysis, including an interactive tool allowing engineers to benchmark their salaries, on our website on 29th June.

One of the survey findings — that civil engineering has a higher proportion of women than any other sector — is discussed in more detail in our Women in Engineering feature.

Elsewhere in the June issue, our features take an in-depth look at aerospace. Our cover feature this issue gives us a rare insight into the high-tech world of Rolls-Royce, with a detailed look at one of the most advanced features of modern aircraft, the turbine blades that convert the energy in jet fuel into movement. These blades are single crystals of a nickel ‘superalloy’, and their manufacture by casting is probably the most advanced feat of metalwork achieved anywhere in the world; especially at Rolls-Royce’s new blade-casting facility in Rotherham where the process is automated to a larger extent than ever before.

Another feature answers a question that’s often put to us. Whenever we’ve mentioned airport expansion, we’ve always received a comment asking who seaplanes are not revived, as they would allow aircraft to be operated without the difficulties of building new runways. We take a look at what a new generation of seaplanes might look like; and if our commenters were expecting something like the old Short Sunderlands or even the huge Saunders-Roe Princess, which never went into full production, they might be in for a surprise at the 2000-seat, A380-dwarfing Leviathan that aerospace engineers are proposing.

We also ask industry experts how technology is shaping civil aviation, and investigate machining technologies for composites, increasingly important in aerospace. Finally, our interview asks one of the senior engineers of Bosch, a company at the forefront of ‘Industry 4.0’, the machine-connectivity revolution, how this new development can help manufacturers.

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