Engineering companies are bucking the national trend of abandoning final salary pension schemes, says the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF).
Its survey found that nearly 60% of companies in the sector offer this type of pension as a benefit beyond basic salary to attract recruits from a shrinking pool of suitably qualified graduates.
Mike McKiernan, director of occupational policy at the EEF, said: "This survey highlights the lengths that engineering firms are prepared to go to in order to recruit the most talented young people."
But a straw poll of large electronics companies found few that still offer a final salary scheme to new employees. Many of the companies that do may be SMEs.
Nationwide research by consulting actuaries Hazell Carr found that only 3% of smaller firms have decided to axe their schemes. But it also discovered that may soon change: "An astonishing 25% of the UK's smaller businesses with a final salary scheme intend to close or wind up the scheme in the next year, mirroring the high profile decisions by big companies," said Hazell Carr.
The Amicus-MSF union, which has published a report on the issue, said: "This crisis has been precipitated by the fact that the contribution cost of providing pensions is rising due to increasing life expectancy and lower expected investment returns."
The union says that many employers are "attempting to switch the impact of rising costs directly on to employees by switching from final salary to money purchase schemes, which will provide much lower benefits unless employees contribute a lot more".
But Malcolm McLean, chief executive of the Pensions Advisory Service, warns that final salary pension schemes are "only as good as your employer is".
"The employer has got to be there and solvent," said McLean.
If a company goes bust, existing pensioners, including those who have taken early retirement, get priority. The fund is divided up and those who have not yet retired or have delayed taking their pension, can be left with nothing.