Export orders fuel another good quarter for engineers

Scottish Engineering's chief executive Paul Sheerin. Picture: Contributed
Scottish Engineering's chief executive Paul Sheerin. Picture: Contributed
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Scottish engineering firms are continuing to benefit from a growing global economy and are increasing staffing levels amid confidence in future prospects, according to a report out today.

The latest quarterly report from industry body Scottish Engineering showed that order levels both from overseas and UK customers have generally remained strong. Exports have slipped slightly from the previous quarter but they have now remained positive for the sixth consecutive quarter.

Overall output volume across the sector has also improved and employment levels have picked up again after falling back slightly in the first quarter of the year.

Although the Scottish and UK economies are seeing weak levels of GDP growth, Scottish Engineering’s chief executive Paul Sheerin said growth in the wider world economy was providing a strong pipeline of work for firms.

“No matter what self-inflicted wounds we bring upon ourselves, the world economy appears to currently be on an upward trend, and while that impact is diluted more than we would like, that effect is still there,” he said.

However, Sheerin warned businesses urgently needed more details over trading arrangements post-Brexit.

“The fundamental detail needed to give the clarity that export businesses need from Brexit seems no closer. And to add insult to injury, the cost to be paid for this folly would appear only to climb. For the sake of our export businesses, an outbreak of honest and rapid progress is needed, and it is needed now,” he said.

The latest survey, which took in more than 300 companies, shows optimism among engineering firms has now been positive for six consecutive quarters and plans for both capital and training investment have also increased over the previous quarter.

Sheerin added: “I am also heartened by the fact that we are seeing some positive signs from the oil and gas industry, with a cautious optimism apparent. We see companies traditionally serving that industry successfully applying twin strategies of diversification and ongoing focus on a continuous improvement path.”

However Sheerin said while an increase in staffing is encouraging, “it sits against the perennial backdrop of skills challenges” where he said the focus is sharpening for several reasons

“The triple objective measures of low unemployment, growth following the global trend, plus our aging workforce matches the subjective conversations I have had from Aberdeen to Ayrshire: skilled employees are hard to get, and it feels like it may be getting harder. Many members are already looking ahead at training plans to match this challenge,” he added.