Boeing poaches engineers

Hanging on by a thread: the skills crisis in Britain
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The Independent Online
More than 1,500 highly qualified engineers are expected to leave Britain to work for Boeing in Seattle, tempted by six- figure dollar salaries.

The giant aircraft maker has responded to a shortage of skills in the US by launching a European trawl to bring in the talent it needs to build its next generation of aircraft. It is unclear whether it is also motivated by the desire to deprive its arch-rival Airbus of the same people

Tony Docherty, senior vice- president of TAD Technical Services, which has been hired to find 3,000 engineers, says that about half will come from the UK. "There's an element of brain drain," he said. "The quality of British engineers is the best, and we are paying a world price for the talent." TAD has screened 6,000 people since early September and is putting 2,300 forward to Boeing.

Pay at the company ranges from $30 an hour for draughtsmen and women to $60 an hour for highly qualified engineers. As a norm, TAD says, that translates into salaries between $56,400 (pounds 37,600) and $103,400 (pounds 68,933). The average pay for members of the Institure of Electronic Engineers in the UK is pounds 36,000: very few engineers earn more than pounds 50,000. TAD also points out that the cost of living is lower in the US than the UK.

Mr Docherty acknowledges that the recruitment drive will put pressure on UK manufacturing, where the shortage of engineering skills is already starting to hurt. "Companies like British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce have not trained the people they should have done," he said. "British industry is playing the price of its disinvestment in training and engineers in the past 10 years."