Friday, 18 April 2014
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Report reveals scale of UK's engineering skills shortage

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.

Readers' comments (14)

  • @ Bjørn

    I wasn't tempted by the riches of management and I'm still an engineer today. I'm probably a lot poorer economically for that choice.

    Career choices are inevtiably a balance between interest and need and increasingly people are finding the need aspect dominating. I for one could not hope to own my own house if I were graduating as an engineer today. That MIGHT sway me.

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  • Pay is lacking in the engineering sector. A little above average in most cases. Sure graduates get a better stating salary but it won't go up much in comparison to people other have moved into other sectors are studied different degrees such as law, medicine, vetinary studies etc. Until this is addressed the engineering sector will not improve. The talented people will continue to work in other sectors (no matter how many of them have engineering degrees).

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  • As an international student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Engineering in the UK, I feel that firstly I have made a wrong choice in choosing the UK as a study destination and mark you it is not cheap!
    The UK should understand that today, international students have a wider scope of study destinations such as Canada, the USA and Australia, which are more welcoming.
    The abolishment of the Post-study visa and the numerous barriers and complications involving the tier2 visa can only be viewed as xenophobic.
    To summarise it, it seems that UK just wants you to gain your education and go back home despite advocating for ''equality''.
    At least even giving us a visa that allows for a bit of experience would be appreciated.
    All in all I would advice anyone reading this NOT to pursue a degree in UK it is worthless and there is a phobia of ''foreigners'' taking jobs in UK especially if you are thinking of launching your career in UK.
    It should also be understood that international students contribute an estimated £8.3bn annually to the UK economy and it seems that the government is just slapping itself!

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  • Salary causes a lot more problems then just recruitment and retainment. It causes engineers to pursue roles they may not be suitable for. Management is a role that uses a different skill set and requires people who are able to work well leading others. Unfortunately the issue with pay pushes people out of engineering and into management and you end up with people who are incompetent in this role.

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