Mechanical Design – Does it pay more to work for yourself?

Monthly data, produced by the REC and KPMG, shows a growing trend within manufacturing companies in the UK for the use of professional Engineering Contractors.

We have noticed this trend specifically within the field of mechanical design. In the wake of the 2008 recession there has been an ever-growing need for highly skilled Design Engineers to cover new projects and products.

Evidence from REC/KPMG suggests engineering businesses are using more contractors both due to the lack of permanent candidates available, as well as the benefits to their organisations. By having a percentage of their Engineering teams on a contract basis, companies can flex their resources depending on workload; it also means they can secure contractors from a national pool with specialist and/or broader experience than they might be able to source from local permanent candidates.

To meet the demand there have been more Engineers choosing to leave permanent work to become independent contractors in the last two years than at any point in the last decade. The question often asked is do the benefits of working as a contractor outweigh the risks?

Taking some of Stream’s information we have compiled some data graphics to outline how the market has evolved.


When compared with 2012, the average hourly contractor rate (for contractors we have placed at Stream) has increased by 38%, now at an average of £36/hour. Conversely, the average permanent salary (again, for people placed through ourselves) has only increased by 6% – from £32k to £34k.

Based on these learnings, working on a contractual basis is advantageous for both company and contractor, offering flexibility and a higher take-home.

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