Annual state of the industry report raises familiar skills fears

The latest “State of the nation” report from industry body Engineering UK paints a concerning picture over the UK’s ability to get to grips with its much discussed engineering skills shortage.

According to the Engineering UK 2017 report industry is going to require 265,000 skilled entrants – including 186,000 engineers – every year through to 2024 to meet demand. But with the proportion of young workers (aged under 25) continuing to decrease there are fears that industry will not be able to meet this demand.

One particular area of concern remains the supply of engineering graduates, which is currently falling well short of the 20,000 per year that the report claims industry needs.

Click here to vote in this week’s poll on the engineering skills gap

The report also warns that with the UK industry currently highly dependent on engineering skills from the EU and other parts of the world, any post-Brexit tightening of immigration policy and reduction to the perceived attractiveness of working in the UK will have a further detrimental effect on the supply of key skills.

Another issue is gender diversity, with boys far more likely to pursue STEM subjects at A-Level and go onto study an engineering or technology subject at university.

Despite a generally concerning picture, there some positive findings however.

For instance, the report shows that nine per cent more engineering and technology first degrees were obtained in 2014/2015 than the year before.

What’s more, with the percentage of 11 – 16 year olds considering a career in engineering, up from 40 to 51 per cent in four years, there are promising signs that perceptions of a career in engineering are beginning to improve. This is reinforced by the report’s finding that 96 per cent of teachers would recommend a career in engineering, whilst 3/4 of parents also view it positively.

There’s also some good news around engineering apprenticeships, which surged by 15 per cent with 108,000 apprenticeships starting in 2014/15.

Click here to vote in this week’s poll on the engineering skills gap

However, this good news from the world of engineering education is tempered by concerns over shortages of specialist teaching staff. These concerns are echoed by claims made by parliament’s education select committee that schools are struggling to recruit enough teachers and that these shortages are particularly acute in STEM subjects.

Writing in the foreword to the report, RAE president Prof Dame Anne Dowling and Engineering UK chairman Malcolm Brinded make a series of recommendations aimed at improving the supply of engineering and technology skills. These include a greater focus on engineering within the curriculum and an international charm offensive that promotes the UK as welcoming and open for business. The foreword also calls on government to make addressing the STEM skills gap a key plank of its industrial strategy.

Engineering UK 2017 – Key facts

  • 5.7 million people employed by UK engineering enterprises
  • £486bn contributed by engineering to UK GDP in 2015
  • 7 per cent rise in number of UK engineering firms in 2015
  • 265,000 skilled entrants required annually to meet demand
  • 20,000 annual shortfall of engineering grads
  • 108,000 engineering apprenticeship starts
  • £26,000 average starting salary for engineering grads
  • 51 per cent of 11 – 16 year olds would consider a career in engineering

You can access the full report via the Engineering UK website