It’s no secret that the UK has been suffering from an engineering skills shortage for years. The UK needs to produce 180,000 more skilled engineering recruits a year just to meet demand at the current level. Even more engineers will be needed in the coming decades to work on extensive projects and upgrades to important infrastructure.
The Importance of the Engineering Skills Shortage
The engineering industry contributes £486 billion to the UK economy and this is set to increase year on year – but the industry won’t hit peak productivity if the number of engineers doesn’t increase.
Engineering has a ripple effect beyond its own industry, with every engineer supporting a further 1.74 jobs. Furthermore, 27% of all enterprises in the UK are engineering related. Support for and investment in the UK engineering sector is vital to addressing the shortage of engineers and technicians.
How to Address the Engineering Skills Shortage:
1. Hire Apprentices
Over 100,000 engineering apprenticeships are started every year, but not all of them are carried through to completion. Unfinished apprenticeships a terrible waste of talent, especially considering that half of 11-16 year olds are already considering a career in engineering, but over half of 11-14 year olds don’t know what apprenticeships are or how to access them.
Lloyds Bank has introduced its Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre to train apprentices and offers a programme to train established engineers in specialist fields. The Lloyds training programme is helping to get more young people into the industry and helps those who may now find themselves without a job as times have changed. Such engineering initiatives help the industry at every level, making engineering a sustainable career choice.
2. Encourage Diverse Talent Pools into Higher Education
There are several initiatives working to encourage young people to get into engineering. If the industry had as many female engineers as males, this would likely fix the skills shortage. A study by the European Commission showed that only 24 out of every 1,000 female university graduates had degrees in subjects related to information and computer technology, and only a quarter of female ICT graduates go on to work in the digital sector.
In order to remain a powerful industry, the engineering sector must reach more people of all backgrounds to increase interest in the field.
3. Focus on Digital
Leading on from this, the digital sector is growing in importance. Newer fields of engineering like software and programming need to be encouraged as the world becomes increasingly connected. Nearly two thirds (61%) of the engineering workforce consider the recruitment of skilled engineering and technical staff as a barrier to achieving business objectives, due to the shortage of engineers with the necessary skills to push projects forward.
However, only 30% of engineering leaders have firm plans to introduce or extend the use of digital technologies, meaning there may soon be a wider skills gap.
Jobs in AI and app development are increasing in demand, with fewer candidates to go around. Computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rate of all degrees, despite there being hundreds of thousands of computer science jobs existing and being created.
How Recruitment Agencies Can Help Solve the Engineering Skills Shortage
Technical recruiters working in engineering must get the best results with an increasingly smaller pool of talent. Specialist engineering recruitment agencies will have a deeper understanding of the details of every engineering job, what the role needs and how best to meet business requirements. Recruitment companies also have wide networks, often building candidate relationships with engineers across multiple years and contracts.
By introducing high quality candidates to high quality roles, the recruitment industry can help elevate the profile of the engineering sector, drawing more people into engineering careers. This has a positive feedback effect, bringing more young engineers into the system with the latest knowledge for the newest roles.