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ACE to scrutinise recruitment agencies

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) is setting up a taskforce to determine what impact the activities and unethical behaviour of some recruitment agencies is having on the industry. The working group, which met for the first time last week, consists of 14 individuals from some of the UK’s top 10 engineering consultancy firms, the trade body for the UK consultancy and engineering industry said. ACE, whose members include FaberMaunsell and Buro Happold, intends to also use the taskforce to examine the true extent of the skills shortage facing the sector. It hopes to use the findings from the six-month long inquiry, to be made public later this year, to develop a series of strategies to address the issues. Andy Walker, ACE communications and public affairs director, said: “We’ve received various comments from firms affiliated to our organisation about the various activities and unethical behaviours that some recruitment consultancies seem to employ. “What we aim to do is to use the taskforce to gather as much information as possible on this issue and find out what is actually going on.” Mr Walker explained that ACE had decided to suspend its relationship with two recruitment consultancies until the end of the investigation, not because they had been behaving unethically, but because it allowed ACE to hold its review without any conflicts in interest. He added: “What we are not going to do is to name and shame recruitment consultancies without having investigated the issue thoroughly. However, going forward, if we see a pattern of activity and behaviour, which we consider to be unethical, emerging from the industry as a whole, then we will make our findings public once we have carried out our review.” Tom Hadley, director of external relations, at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the recruitment industry’s trade body, was aware of the inquiry and welcomed it. “We welcome the opportunity to address bad practice, whether it’s by our members or not. As a trade body for the recruitment industry one of our main objectives is to continue raising standards,” he said. “Obviously, we take any instances of bad practice seriously. All our members have to sign up to a code of practice, which we enforce. So every complaint that breaches our code will be investigated through our Professional Standards Committee.” He said his organisation was unusual in that its enforcement officers worked with agencies to address bad practice where they found it. He added: “In terms of some of the bad practice referred to by ACE, from what we’ve heard so far it’s a little bit vague. However, we are quite keen to engage with the Association to, in practical terms, to find out what some of these unethical behaviours are, and how they can be addressed.”