Welcome to skills week

It’s “skills week” on The Engineer - which means that all week (29th Oct – 2nd November) we will be covering the perennially thorny issue of - you guessed it - engineering skills.

As regular readers will be aware the so-called skills shortage remains a major issue for industry. Engineering UK’s most recent annual report (which is perhaps the most referred to bellwether on the topic) estimates that the UK requires 124000 new engineers and technicians every year, and faces an annual shortfall of 59,000.

And although the cause, scale and nature of the problem is often a source of heated debate, few would disagree with the assertion that UK industry - for whatever reason - is struggling to find the skills it needs to compete and evolve.

As we’ve frequently written, addressing this is far from straightforward. The skills problem is a deeply complex issue, driven by a variety of factors, which needs to be addressed on a number of different fronts.

Perhaps the most talked about area of this is the need to develop a pipeline of future engineers by changing the way that we talk to young people about science and engineering.

There’s no doubt that this is enormously important for the UK’s longer-term economic prosperity, but whilst we will touch on STEM this week, it’s such a nuanced and complex issue in its own right that we’re going to save a detailed discussion on this for a later “themed week.”

Instead, this week the primary focus is on the here and now: the measures that engineering firms can take today to make sure they’ve got the talent they need to thrive, and the actions individuals can take to make the most of their skills and tap into the training and knowledge that will help them advance their careers at a time of profound technological change.

Amongst the specific issues under the microscope this week, we’ll be looking at how we crack that old industry bugbear of graduates not being “factory-ready”; we’ll look at some of the emerging technology areas that are driving new skills requirements; we’ll be talking to industry leaders and factory-floor engineers about their own experiences; and we’ll be examining the skills implications of that ever-present elephant in the room: Brexit.

Our partner for this week’s festivities is Frazer-Nash Consultancy, an engineering firm that works with organisations of all shapes and sizes across almost every area of industry and which therefore has unique and broad perspective on some of the skills challenges industry faces. We'll be hearing from some of the firm's top engineers over the course of the week.

As always we welcome your comments on what is always an emotive issue, and hope that our coverage over the course of next few days will help play a role – however small – in helping to move forward thinking on this critical issue.