Report reveals scale of UK’s engineering skills shortage

Download document:

Engineering skills and the UK economy - .PDF file.

A new report has laid out the scale of the UK’s engineering skills shortage and called for government industrial strategy to focus on training.

The study, commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering, found that British industry will need 100,000 new graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers.

However, the UK currently produces only 90,000 STEM graduates a year — including international students who cannot presently obtain work visas — and a quarter of engineering students choose jobs in other sectors.

In total, industry will need 830,000 new science, engineering and technology (SET) professionals and 450,000 SET technicians between now and 2020.

The study, Jobs and growth: the importance of engineering skills to the economy, found the skills demand came from people leaving the industry and expansion in areas such as nuclear new-build and premium vehicle manufacture, helping to create a wage premium of 15 per cent for engineers compared with the average UK employee.

The report also argued that a government industrial strategy focusing on skills in areas such as manufacturing and telecommunications would help rebalance the economy and create and jobs and growth.

Academy president Sir John Parker said in a statement: ‘We need an increase in the number of STEM graduates over the next 10 years in support of rebalancing the UK economy.

‘I am delighted to see that the government is taking on board the message that a proper industrial strategy is essential for effective and sustained economic recovery. 

‘Only with such a framework and vision in place can we create the pull that defines our future educational and skills needs. We must encourage employers to work with universities with the aim of producing more engineers.’

Despite the government’s recent public discussions about rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing, the report pointed to predictions that this would not take place in the medium term and argued that an industrial strategy, with government actively supporting productive sectors of the economy, was looking increasingly important.

This chimes with the coalition’s recent announcement of a government business bank and talk about the need to get behind successful sectors such as aerospace and automotive manufacturing — a break from previous governments, which have shied away from discussing, if not formulating, an industrial policy.

The report also re-emphasised the need for the industry to encourage more women and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds into the sector.