1. Has your company been busier in 2010 than it was in 2009?
Yes: 65% No:31% Don't know: 4%
A positive response here, with almost two-thirds of readers saying that business was better in 2010 than it was in the previous year. But that’s not saying much, because 2009 was a shocker. The fact that a third haven’t seen any improvement is rather worrying.
2. Do you expect your company to be busier in 2011 than in 2010?
Yes: 63% No: 28% Don't know: 9%
A steady if unspectacular improvement in business conditions would appear to be the order of the day. Most engineering firms think things will get better next year, but it is a far from convincing vote of confidence. There could still be trouble ahead, it would seem.
3. Do you think we are now over the worst of the economic downturn?
Yes: 41% No: 39% Don't know: 20%
There has been a lot of talk about double-dip recession and these concerns have recently been exacerbated by savage government spending cuts in the public sector. While most readers think we are now out of the woods, there are still plenty out there who fear a delayed reaction to austerity measures. Financial problems in Eurozone countries such as Ireland and Portugal were also cited as a cause for great concern.
4. Do you think that your company will be recruiting additional engineers in the next 12 months?
Yes: 63% No: 32% Don't know: 5%
If most engineers think that next year will be better than this year then it stands to reason that businesses will grow - and the figures bear that out. Lots of readers said their firms were managing to get by because everyone was working flat-out. New people were needed, it was felt. But whether they could be recruited as easily as they were discarded was another matter.
5. Do you think your company will be making significant investments in capital equipment in the next 12 months?
Yes: 46% No: 45% Don't know: 9%
This was a tricky one that polarised opinion. On the one hand there were those who said that their company had held off investing in new equipment for so long that decisions couldn’t be postponed any longer. But others said they would have to muddle through. There was also a strong sectoral bias. Engineering firms supplying the oil and gas industry seemed to be doing better than those in, say, general manufacturing. They therefore had more money to invest.
6. Do you think that the government will be successful in its aim of rebalancing the economy towards making things rather than relying on services?
Yes: 14% No: 58% Don't know: 28%
Politicians from all the major political parties have made noises in recent months about the need to grow the manufacturing base to reduce the UK economy’s reliance on the financial sector. A laudable aim, indeed. Unfortunately engineers don’t believe them. Or perhaps they doubt the ability of politicians to deliver on their promises. There was a strong feeling that, in terms of revitalising manufacturing, that particular horse had well and truly bolted. Plenty of readers said that manufacturing had been allowed to wither for so long that much of the capability no longer existed. So it would be impossible to simply magic it back again.
7. Are you happy with the coalition government’s handling of the economy since it came into power?
Yes: 63% No: 24% Don't know: 13%
This question revealed a certain amount of sympathy for the cards that the new coalition government had been dealt. Many felt that tough decisions on cutting the national deficit needed to be made after the profligacy of the Labour years. But the handling of some issues, such as university fees and the scrapping of family allowances, didn’t go down so well. But overall a thumbs up from engineers, so far.
8. Do you think, in the long term, engineering still has a bright future?
Yes: 68 No: 16 Don't know: 16%
We had to ask this question, even though it was highly emotive. More than two-thirds remain optimistic about the future of engineering. Lots of readers said that, whatever went on in the wider world, they were proud to be engineers.