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Searching for skilled engineers

In the never-ending debate over engineering skills, the need to inspire the next generation generally gets the most attention.

But while no-one would argue against the critical importance of ensuring a pipeline of future engineers, the need to recruit experienced engineers right now is arguably a far more pressing concern for UK industry.

It’s an issue that affects every level of industry, from the small and medium-sized firms at the heart of the UK’s engineering supply chain, right through to more prominent engineering employers like Dyson and Jaguar Land Rover.

Last year, the business department’s chief scientific advisor, Prof John Perkins, warned that a lack of engineering skills could “constrain” the UK’s economic recovery. And many experts have claimed that the UK will have to rely on overseas talent to meet skills shortages in the next decade.

Are there enough face to face opportunities, such as recruitment fairs, to meet engineering employers?

It’s certainly a worrying problem, but while industry is buzzing with initiatives designed to enthuse young people, there appear to be precious few solutions aimed at tapping into the expertise of those already in industry.

With this in mind, we’d be interested in hearing your views and suggestions on how industry can attract the experienced engineers so critical to ensuring UK industry remains competitive.

Do you feel that your skills are valued? And does industry in general do a good job of communicating its skills requirements? Are there, for instance, enough face to face opportunities - like recruitment fairs - to meet employers beyond your own sector? And are there enough pathways for you to develop your career and move up in the industry?

Your views will help shape our coverage of this critically important issue, so please do let us know what you think in the comments box at the bottom of this article.

Please also take a moment to vote in the poll on the right hand side of this page.

Readers' comments (64)

  • Uk is playing in a global market, but refuses to offer a competitive salary to experienced engineers. With a very high cost of living, it offers low wages for engineers in UK As long as the companies refuses to face this, there is not much to do about it.

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  • The Engineering Council introduced the Neighbourhood Engineering Scheme in the 1980's for professional Engineers to be linked to schools to support the teaching of STEM subjects in schools, make STEM subjects fun and relevant and introduce children to Engioneering as a career.

    In 1997 Lord Sainsbury hijacked the acheme as Science and Engineering Ambassadors (SEA'S) administered by local SetNets.

    I was a Neigbourhood Engineer from 1986 and then a Science and Engineering Ambassador from 1997 until 2010 and starting my current job.

    It is very rewarding being an SEA as well as being deemed relevant for CPD.

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  • I am trained electronic engineering technician that worked my way up into engineering based on my working knowledge and skills, without a degree back in the 1990's. I got laid off in 2004, since then every job I apply for require a degree. With all due respect for education a degree is not all when come to technology development knowledge is king.
    My recommendation for employers looking for knowledgeable and skilled engineers, start by finding experience people and retrain them and mix them with new young talent, and promote knowledge and skills sharing. Technology is a culture, it is not a model.

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  • No skilled Engineers for £30k.
    Try offering £60k.

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  • Recruitment fairs will only attract existing engineers, we need to inspire young people to become engineers so I think they either need to send the recruitment fairs in to schools or to have more regional fairs where schools are invited to send their pupils even if it means a day out of school ! or even bus pupils to the larger fairs perhaps at the age when they are deciding their learning options and are then able to select the subjects which may help an engineering career.

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  • There must be thousands of skilled, experienced engineers like myself, over 50, and unable to find work because of the employers' overly prescriptive requirements. In reality, I think they would rather import fresh young graduates from overseas because they are cheaper, but I doubt thay have factored in all the costly mistakes the young engineers make, which we have already made and learned from. We should emulate the Australians, and restrict visas to foreign engineers until we have no indigenous engineers still looking for work.

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  • Human Resources departments are the problem, they haven't got the skills to recognize quality when they see it

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  • The career path is still very much away from Engineering and into management if you want to move on to a higher pay grade. This will effectively remove the skilled Engineers from what they are good at and move them into something where they might not be the best. If you want experienced Engineers, you have to pay for that experience.

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  • I would totally endorse Philip Hodgson's comments. I know a lot of engineers over 50 who can not find work. Engineering covers a very broad range of subjects and skills. Unless you are a 99% match for any role advertised you are deemed "not to meet the requirement we are looking for" and if you are over 50 don't even bother to apply.

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  • Like many other professional engineers of my generation I was booted out of engineering when Maggie Thatcher decided to move the country away from manufacturing. Can't blame her too much really. The unions were totally out of hand and someone had to say enough is enough.
    I could quite happily go back in to design engineering if someone should offer me a job. I have a good CAD knowledge , and I still invent. But who would take on a 63 year old.
    Hey Ho

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