UK engineering facing skills crisis: where are the jobs?

The UK is faced with an engineering skills shortage, with people in this career being more in-demand than ever. But where are the biggest gaps and which engineering jobs are most affected?


UK skills shortage


It has been announced by the UK government that 2018 will be the ‘Year of Engineering.’ It is now widely recognised that the sector is facing a skills crisis like never before, and measures need to be taken to help the leaders of the engineering industry fill the jobs that are integral to the field. 

According to the government’s study, for the engineering sector to gain enough candidates to reduce the skills shortage, they would need around 186,000 skilled recruits each year until 2024.

Although there are engineers who enjoy the flexibility of temporary work, many others prefer a more stable form of employment. The fact that the lowest temporary placement rates are in the biomedical and petroleum engineering sectors means that engineers looking for long-term roles could be drawn to these options.

Gap analysis: Which workplaces want engineers? 

In the European Union (EU), there are a number of countries reporting various bottlenecks in different engineering fields. Bottlenecks are jobs that employers have had problems in the past to find and hire staff and expect the same in the future. On a list of bottlenecks across all occupations within the EU, mechanical engineers are ranked seventh, electrical engineers 12th and civil engineers 14th.

When it comes to newer and experimental engineering fields such as software system engineering or control and calibration engineering, highly skilled employees are even more in-demand

Have graduates got the skills gap covered? 

In their 2017 report, Engineering UK put the annual shortfall of graduate engineers at 20,000, which is a conservative estimate. Without a steady stream of engineers entering the workforce, industry leaders will face further issues when it comes to filling graduate level jobs. 

Furthermore, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) revealed in a report that up to 62 per cent of engineering employers say that graduates cannot offer the right skills, which is a contributing factor, and also suggest not enough is being done by schools and universities to prepare future engineers for their debut in the workforce. 

An overabundance of engineering jobs can delay projects, making an impact on the profitability of companies and effect their relationships with customers. In sectors like civil engineering, this begins to wreak havoc on the construction of public spaces and services like roads, bridges and railways. Finding the right people therefore becomes even more important.

Fighting scary shortage statistics with STEM

Several STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related agencies and youth schemes have pledged to support the Year of Engineering. The Design and Technology Association is motivating the youth to consider careers in the space industry by developing curriculum based resources that can be used in the classroom.

STEM subjects have been unpopular for a while, with many schools unable to encourage anyone to take these subjects at A-Level. It is hoped that by demonstrating to both children and young adults just how exciting, as well as profitable, engineering can be, the skills crisis can be corrected as the next generation of highly qualified engineers join the workplace. 

Plugging the skills gap is going to be a long process, but there is hope. The government, industry leaders and engineering enthusiasts alike have all begun to look at solutions to a staffing problem. Whether the resolution comes in the form of STEM, the school syllabus or adult training schemes, recognising the engineering crisis in the UK is the first step towards solving it. 

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