Confidence game


Loss in government confidence by engineers means action must be taken now to present engineering as an ‘industry of choice’, says Keith Lewis of recruitment consultancy Matchtech

There is a growing sense of unease throughout the UK engineering industry. A look at our Confidence Index points heavily towards a lack of confidence in the Government’s ability to support the industry. In an atmosphere of doubt and discontent there is a fear among engineers that local investment could dry up. Both a change in attitude and strategy is needed to save an industry that has, for many years, been the backbone of the UK economy.

‘We want to inspire new talent, reassure unhappy engineers, and change the negative outlook that hangs over the industry

Our findings, which are the results of talking to more than 1,000 UK engineers, are worrying to say the least. Over half of those interviewed said that they have lost confidence in current Government policy and two in five told us they would consider leaving the UK to pursue employment abroad. This suggests that an overhaul in attitude towards the industry is needed. In a climate when nearly three quarters of industry professionals believe that the Government isn’t encouraging innovation it begs the question- “how long will the UK be the world leader in engineering?” In fact 67% of engineers are asking themselves this exact thing. 

wind_turbine engineering maintenance
The renewables sector could be particularly attractive for prospective engineers

The Index shows it is time for a shift in attitude and a proactive strategy towards change, starting with the Government.  There are a number of critical issues here that need to be addressed to remove the sense of trepidation within the industry. However, with confidence waning, over 56% of UK engineers believe that local investment will dry up. Without local investment it will not be long before engineers look elsewhere for employment. The Government will need to move quickly to alter perceptions, boost confidence, and revise policies to prevent an exodus.

It’s no secret that the industry is currently struggling to attract the next generation of engineers. However, this is not a new issue; it has simply got worse over the last couple of decades. In recent years we have seen successive Governments paying only lip service to what actually needs to be done and as a result other careers such as IT have emerged as more attractive avenues.

In order to begin to rectify this, the Government needs to start presenting engineering as “an industry of choice,” particularly at a time where the UK youth unemployment rate stands at 23%, but, change must also come from those within the industry itself. Matchtech now has a dedicated team which goes into universities in order to educate and motivate graduates with regards to choosing engineering as a career and more of this is needed.

In addition, we have recently launched an Engineering Showcase which acts as a platform for individuals involved in inspiring engineering projects to demonstrate how the engineering industry is still full of innovation, creativity and excellence. We want to inspire new talent, reassure unhappy engineers, and change the negative outlook that hangs over the industry. Perhaps then we can gain renewed investment and influence current Government priorities.

Without assurance that enough is being done by the Government to correct the current failings it is going to be difficult to attract renewed investment into the industry and the next generation that it desperately needs. Our Index has shed light on the problems of discontent and awareness must lead to action. The Government is setting a tone for change; however a complete shift in attitude not only means reinstating confidence, but ensuring that the industry continues to evolve. It simply cannot do this if the current and next generation of engineers are not on board.  Let’s hope that the Government can facilitate a change in attitude, encourage investment to rectify the current problems and that it is not simply a case of too little too late!

Keith Lewis is managing director of Matchtech