engineering the next generation: how to combat a skills gap.

Engineering is an essential component in keeping a society moving. It determines the capabilities of our workplaces, roads, bridges and even our waterways. 

It involves plumbing and wastage, the uninhibited movement of traffic, planes, airports and the homes we live in. 

Without engineering, the infrastructure around us would crumble and societal progression and advancement would become near impossible. 

Neglecting to train a future generation of engineers could seriously impact the UK’s ability to compete globally. 

So why is it so important that we work to attract and sustain candidates and skills in engineering? 

scientific skills gap

Spanning across so many of the ‘taken-for-granted’ luxuries that we enjoy like electronics, streets, bridges, rail, cars, planes, irrigation systems, electrical lines and outdoor sports facilities, it is easy to see why some of the largest engineering firms in the UK are starting to express concern for the dwindling numbers of engineering and physics students coming through. 

In 2015, there was a 7% rise in engineering enterprises, meaning there are now 650,000 in the UK. These agencies employ around 2.7M people. 

However, the engineering workforce is aging and the proportion of workers under the age of 25 has been steadily decreasing. 

STEM recruitment concerns.

It is estimated that we are now facing an annual shortfall of around 55,000 graduates meaning we would have to double the amount of UK based STEM graduates in order to fill available positions. 

Almost one third (32%) of companies across sectors currently have difficulties recruiting experienced STEM staff, and a fifth find it difficult to recruit entrants to STEM. 

However, employers have been criticised for being overly selective in the graduates they choose, with many only hiring from top universities and disregarding students that have achieved a 2:2 or below. 

This may be detrimental to attracting prospective candidates to roles they may be suited to, as the view of engineering as an elitist career path may put future engineers off. 



higher education gives a helping hand

Universities have also made steps to encourage more students to take on STEM courses, and they have also begun to abolish some of the obstacles that stand in the way of women and minorities’ applications.  

NMiTE (New Model in technology and Engineering) is the first ‘wholly new British university in over 40 years.’ It was created to specifically address the engineering skills shortage.

They take a new approach to learning, based on real world issues and scenarios that mix engineering with design, liberal arts, humanities, communication and employability skills. 

Admissions are 50:50 gender balanced and they recruit from atypical engineering backgrounds, not requiring a maths or physics a-level, but they are instead assessed on ‘curiosity, grit and passion.’ 

searching for STEM 

The Visiting Professors Scheme is another helpful tool in furthering the education of STEM subjects at university. 

It places senior industry professionals in further education institutions to “teach, mentor and contribute to undergraduate projects, curriculum design and the strategic development of engineering faculty.” Universities can receive up to £10,000 for participation and the scheme has been running for almost 30 years.

white and male engineers.

One of the main setbacks in creating future engineers is that the sector has traditionally catered for white males. 

The higher education employer diversity pilot project proactively brings female and black minority and ethnic engineering undergraduates and recent graduates to the attention of employers, aiming to increase the flow of graduates into the workplace. 

This is necessary because of stark employment differences across genders and racial groups. Almost three quarters (71%) of white grads entered full time graduate employment after six months, whereas only 51% of BME grads entered roles.

Universities are making encouraging steps towards combatting the skills gap by attempting to widen the appeal of subjects that previously had failed to attract women and minorities. 

By including these groups in the creation of the engineers of the future, the talent pool is significantly increased, giving manufacturing companies far more choice when selecting candidates. 

By creating these kinds of opportunities, and by challenging the elitist attitude of some employers it is possible that the skills gap can be reduced, if not closed. 

The logical conclusion of creating chances for everyone is that we might have engineers for everyone too.  

 

 

 

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