Engineers enthusiastic about AI but lack the skills to exploit technology’s potential claims report

Despite relatively low levels of deployment, engineers and their employers appear to be excited about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) according to new research conducted by specialist recruitment agency Hays.

Conducted between 13th April and 9th May 2023 the research received 8,853 responses from across the economy, with 620 of those working in engineering.  Amongst the engineering sample, found that half (50 per cent) of employers surveyed in the sector think we should embrace AI in the workplace, whilst just 12 per cent think it should be feared. Individual engineers share a similar sentiment with 45 per cent enthusiastic about the adoption of AI and 19 per cent saying they think it should be feared.

Whilst recent developments in the field have amplified fears around AI’s effect on job security, engineering respondents were broadly positive about its potential impact with just under a quarter expecting AI tools and technologies to impact their job in a positive way, and only seven per cent fearing it could have a negative effect.  Meanwhile, close to half (44 per cent) don’t believe AI will have any effect on their jobs.

Despite this broadly positive outlook, less than one in five engineering respondents say they have already used an AI tool in their current role. What’s more, in a sign that industry’s digital skills gap may soon become more problematic, 39 per cent say they don’t think they have the right skills to enable them to make the most of AI tools and technologies. Just over one in five engineering firms say they are investing in training to help employees upskill in AI tools and technologies.

The response from the engineering sample broadly mirrors the overall response group, where just over half of employers are enthusiastic about the potential of AI despite just one in give currently using AI tools. The wider sample group also share engineering’s concerns over a worsening skills challenge, with 51 per cent of employers admitting they don’t have the right skills in their workforce to make the best use of AI tools and technology.

Commenting on the research, Hays director and engineering specialist Paul Gibbens said: “It’s clear that not many employers are investing in training in this area and engineers aren’t being supported to work alongside AI or get to grips with it’s potential. Being behind the curve in offering upskilling and training for staff will lead to skills gaps worsening and run the risk of not being an attractive organisation for new hires, amongst other factors.”