Two thirds of engineering employers fear for education system

1 min read

A new report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has again highlighted the engineering skills gap, with two thirds (66 per cent) of employers fearful that education will not keep pace with industry.

The 2015 Skills & Demand in Industry report found that over half of employers (53 per cent) are struggling to find suitably qualified staff, with new recruits failing to meet the required standards. 69 per cent of those recruiting graduates reported a lack of available candidates. While this may be good news for grads in the short term with regard to wage inflation, there are worries over the long term health of the industry, with 64 per cent of employers claiming the shortage of engineers is a threat to their business.

Construction and engineering students visiting a work site.
Construction and engineering students visiting a work site.

“Demand for engineers in the UK remains high, with supply unable to keep pace – and employers continuing to highlight skills shortages as a major concern,” said Nigel Fine, IET chief executive.

“Stronger and deeper collaboration between employers and academic institutions is needed to agree practical steps to ensure that young people are suitably prepared both academically and practically before they start work. Supporting and encouraging teachers and academics to spend time in industry – and employers to visit schools, colleges and universities – would also be hugely beneficial.”

In a week where steel plants have closed and the UK’s nuclear infrastructure is being outsourced, there is genuine concern across industry for the future of British manufacturing. Along with greater government support, there is a belief that the education system needs to be more proactive in addressing the issue.

“A whole generation has focused too much on the service industry instead of manufacturing, and now productivity, which has led to a gap that the next generation of school leavers need to fill,” said Sheila Brown, director at South Midlands Communications, a specialist in radio, broadcast and communications products.

“We are not convinced that universities are focused on preparing their students for the workplace. They have become funding-driven, not outcome-driven, and seem to have lost the will to link the teaching of STEM subjects to industry requirements.”