New survey by Hays reveals what the future holds for engineering

Economic and political uncertainty throughout 2022 undoubtedly impacted the world of work across a range of sectors, including engineering. Thus, insights from surveys are invaluable for assessing patterns within the industry and predicting what we can expect to see going forward.


Hays, leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment, published the Future of Engineering survey 2022, in partnership with The Engineer, which received responses from 385 individuals working in engineering.

The majority of the respondents are engineering professionals whilst 45 per cent are involved in hiring new employees. The insights cover several areas, such as operations (12 per cent), project management (12 per cent) and design engineering (37 per cent). From diversity challenges to skills shortages, the survey delves deep into the engineering sector, giving both professionals and employers the tools they need to succeed in the future.

Getting into engineering

Today, the most well-travelled route into engineering is through a graduate programme from university: 53 per cent of engineering employers said majority of their staff came from this background. There are various other ways to kickstart a career in engineering though; for instance, 32 per cent of professionals entered the industry via an apprenticeship.

However, the survey uncovered several factors that prevent young people from being encouraged into engineering. 29 per cent of respondents cited a disconnect between education and employers. Engineering professionals attribute a lack of young people in the sector to little training and apprenticeship opportunities (19 per cent), the perception of skills and training needed (23 per cent) and not enough careers education in schools (29 per cent).


These gaps could be closed if more organisations address the issues that the industry is witnessing. For employers to support their long-term talent pipeline, they could host work experience for students at school, college and university level to reach out, and appeal, to this audience. Promisingly, 44 per cent of employers already do this to support the next generation of talent, but the number ought to be higher for young people – and the engineering sector overall – to truly benefit.

Other effective initiatives that engineering employers currently practice include mentoring young people (44 per cent), giving talks at careers fairs (39 per cent) and hosting workplace visits for students (34 per cent).

On an optimistic note, ambition is high for one of the most exciting and in-demand careers. A vast majority (84 per cent) of respondents said that engineering was their first-choice career, so many people have their sights set on this sector.

According to another survey by Hays, the 2023 UK Salary and Recruiting Trends guide, over half (53 per cent) of engineering professionals give their work-life balance a positive rating. There is certainly room for career progression within engineering, as 47 per cent said they aspire to a senior leadership position.

Skills shortages cause hiring challenges

Widespread skills shortages have taken their toll on those responsible for recruiting engineering staff, as only 19 per cent say their organisation has access to the correct skills to be able to meet their objectives. As you can imagine, many employers (56 per cent) reported the negative impact of the shortages on productivity, shown in Hays’ most recent UK Salary and Recruiting Trends guide.

Almost half (49 per cent) of employers believe skills shortages within the sector are due to fewer people entering the job market into engineering. Intermediate level roles are the hardest to hire for, followed by entry level roles, according to two-thirds of engineering employers. Respondents also cited several other main reasons for the skills crisis, such as many engineering professionals reaching retirement age (38 per cent), negative stereotypes of the industry (41 per cent) and competition for jobs (43 per cent).

Employers have been forced to take action to overcome the skills shortages affecting engineering. 28 per cent have turned to recruiting more apprentices, 31 per cent have reskilled existing employees into new position and 35 per cent have hired temporary or contract workers. Organisations will also have to be open to upskilling, by letting go of strict requirements when it comes to a candidate’s prior experience, and instead hiring people who possess a desire to learn new skillsets.

Despite the common misconception that engineering solely requires technical expertise, soft skills are also important. As revealed by Hays’ 2023 UK Salary and Recruiting Trends guide, 59 per cent of engineering employers say communication and interpersonal skills are the most sought-after soft skills. The good news is that these kinds of skills are transferable across many sectors and roles. This should be emphasised by employers in job descriptions for example, to help attract and retain talent.

Confronting diversity pitfalls

Firstly, the responses received to the 2022 Future of Engineering  survey illustrate the wider gender issue: 92 per cent male and 7 per cent female. There are many ways to address this underrepresentation by supporting more women to consider careers in engineering. Whilst 48 per cent of engineering professionals think further investment into STEM education would help, 51 per cent believe more mentorships would be beneficial.

As it stands, although the number of female engineers has significantly increased in the last decade, the industry is still missing out on what women can bring to the table. Encouraging and educating female students to enter the male dominated industry can not only help to tackle the skills crisis but empower women to change the narrative.

On top of this, engineering employers could confront the skills crisis by considering undiscovered talent, otherwise known as people who struggle to access work opportunities due to negative stereotypes. Formerly imprisoned, neurodivergent individuals, and ex-forces personnel could make for successful engineers. There’s certainly room for improvement in this area with just 18 per cent of employers reporting that they work with government backed skills programmes to support the recruitment of diverse talent and only 12 per cent say they work with ex-service personnel programmes.

Whilst these numbers are small, organisations are slowly moving in the right direction to draw from diverse talent pools. Diversity, and the creativity that accompanies this, are essential for innovation within engineering. It is imperative for employers to dedicate time and effort into creating a much more diverse future for engineers.