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UK Economy Losing £27 Billion per Year Due to Engineering Skills Shortage – what’s to be done?

Engineering Skills Shortage

Who'd want to be a recruiter in Engineering in 2015? According to Engineering UK (a non-profit organisation promoting the vital role of engineering in society). There is a shortfall in new engineers being employed in the sector by a huge 55,000 per year. The target for new employees between 2012 and 2022 is 1.82 million, but at the current rate the industry is set to fail to reach two thirds of that.

Failure to meet this deficit could result in the UK missing out on £27 billion in revenue.

I’ve been recruiting for the engineering sector for the past 9 years and I’ve seen this problem first hand.

I can see that there has to be a dramatic increase in the amount of engineering graduates and apprentices if there is to be any hope of reaching the target. According to Engineering UK the amount of apprentices and graduates entering the industry needs to be at least double what it is today.

Part of the problem is that young people are just not getting excited about a role in engineering. Not enough is known about the industry and more must be done to educate people on the vital roles that engineers play.

The entire industry needs to look at the way youngsters are becoming aware of engineering. Unfortunately engineering still has somewhat of an image problem. Ask the average person what they think about engineering and you’re likely to get a picture of sweaty men in hard hats working on big machinery.

If industry leaders could open their doors and allow young people to see what it’s actually like to work in engineering and what exciting roles are available, it might just be possible to turn the tide and start getting them interested in the industry.

But what does all this mean for employers today and graduates looking for their first roles within the industry?

There is massive demand for engineers right now but due to the lack of skilled workers, positions are going unfilled. The fact that graduates are still struggling to find positions can be explained by looking at the uneven job market.

Large firms that have the name and marketing budget to draw many applicants are over subscribed for their positions. Whereas, smaller firms in less well understood areas often go unnoticed by new graduates. Another issue is the fact that employers at more specialised firms - such as those in the nuclear engineering sector – are struggling to find graduates with the right skill set.

That's assuming the employer will even consider a graduate at the outset. Often companies leave it to the last minute to fill a vacancy and so want someone with experience to slot right in. Taking on a graduate does require investing time to train and support them, but may pay dividends in the long run.

Going forward it is going to be crucial to line up these two issues: graduate openings and attracting more young people. Encouraging not only youngsters but their parents and teachers too to see Engineering as an exciting profession with great career potential. More needs to be done within the industry to inspire and create excitement for the industry. The next generation will innovate and improve people’s lives through engineering but only if the knowledge about the industry is available.