Blog: Securing future engineering talent must start now

Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, examines the latest research on the engineering and technology workforce needs, and explains why the need to nurture new talent is more important than ever.

Postings for ‘green’ engineering jobs have increased by 55% in the past 5 years,
Postings for ‘green’ engineering jobs have increased by 55% in the past 5 years, -

Given rapid labour market developments and changing workforce needs, we recently commissioned analysts Lightcast to explore engineering and technology skills needs, and how these have changed across the sector in recent years. The findings from this research highlight the ever-growing importance of our sector, but also the worrying scale of the demand we face.

The report –‘Engineering skills needs – now and into the future’ - finds there were approximately 6.1 million engineering jobs (including tech roles) across all industries in 2021, representing around 19% of all jobs in the UK. At the same time, in the past year, recruitment activity for engineering roles accounted for 25% of all job postings in the UK. This mismatch suggests that the skills shortage in engineering is greater than in other areas, or that employers are hiring for future growth, or a combination of the two. Indeed, the research also finds that the demand for engineers is predicted to grow faster than for other occupations.

The growth in ‘green engineering’ roles cannot be underestimated. With engineers playing a central role in the development of solutions to help adapt to and fight climate change, the report finds that postings for ‘green’ engineering jobs have increased by 55% in the past 5 years, and postings requiring ‘green skills’ increased by 48%. Interestingly, ‘green’ roles appear across a wide range of engineering sectors – from civil and electrical through to ICT and software - showing that the application of these skills is far-reaching and important to the economy at large.

Given this soaring demand for engineers across all sectors, it’s essential that the UK has a robust plan and funding in place to attract and train the future workforce, bringing more young people from all backgrounds into engineering and technology, alongside reskilling the current workforce.

We need to ignite an interest and passion for engineering and technology among young people from an early age and give them opportunities to engage with relatable real-life engineers and technicians – so that more are inspired to pursue careers in our sector.

Last month we held our popular Big Bang Fair – which is designed to do exactly that. I’m delighted that tens of thousands of young people enjoyed a fun-filled, action-packed day exploring STEM. Importantly, most students who attended were from our priority schools – which are those we’ve identified as having the highest proportion of young people from groups who are under-represented in engineering and technology.

Our young visitors thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the hands-on STEM activities, attending careers panels and seeing real-world applications of STEM from a huge range of organisations. Importantly, they were also able to talk to 100s of exhibitors and volunteers about what their job involves, why they have a passion for it and how they got into it. Opportunities like this are such a vital step for bridging the gap between school learning and career aspirations and we’re delighted to have received so much support from the sector on this.

Another important strand of our Big Bang programme is our Big Bang Competition – which encourages young people to work on a project of their choosing. We were delighted to announce the winners last month, crowning our UK Young Engineer and UK Young Scientist of the Year. This prestigious achievement is an excellent way of nurturing upcoming talent and inspiring others along the way – as we always encourage our winners to act as ambassadors for engineering and technology among their peers.

Of course there are many other ways that you can help. Offering T level placements to 16-18 year olds is an excellent way businesses can play their part in helping to secure future talent. And it’s an offer we vitally need, in fact, we estimate that up to 43,500 young people will need placements to support their engineering, manufacturing and digital T levels in the next couple of years. I recently wrote about the importance of offering work experience placements for young people.

The sectoral growth conveyed in our research makes it an exciting time, but if we are to successfully meet the demand for engineers and technicians, we must give young people as many opportunities as possible to engage with real-world STEM and STEM workers. I encourage you to do whatever you can to help inspire and secure our future engineers and technicians.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive, EngineeringUK