Skills shortages in UK engineering can be overcome by thinking about a ‘reservoir of talent’ rather than a ‘leaky pipeline’, claims the new Talent 2050 report.
To drive innovation, productivity and economic growth the UK needs to prepare for the skills challenges of the coming decades. Through workshops and a rapid evidence assessment, the final report explores future engineering needs in the UK for a globally competitive skills and diversity mix.
The report recommendations consider the broader skills required in engineering roles of the future. They suggest a more inclusive approach where recruitment or enrolment is based on the potential to gain the right skills rather than prior attainment, and with careers expected to be longer recognising and providing support for upskilling and reskilling; and making use of on-line learning tools at all career stages.
Report author, Paul Jackson said: “We heard from real engineers and found great examples of the changes that could power engineering skills in the future and how those skills are already changing dramatically. They helped us to find a reservoir of future talent that we can access but it will mean changes to education, professional registration and recruitment if we want to succeed at scale and profit from AI and the next industrial revolution.”
Dawn Bonfield, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering at Aston University added that the report highlighted the need for industry to think differently about how it meets its future skills requirements. “The leaky pipeline analogy of missing skills in engineering erroneously assumes that entry to the sector is from one direction only,” she said. “But in reality many people – and especially women – who did not choose engineering early in their career have skills that are relevant and crucial to our future engineering needs. This report starts to explore the skills mix that will be needed in the future and how we can mobilise talent into our industry from other sectors.”
The report also identifies the important role that universities can play in helping the sector access a more diverse reservoir of talent. Prof. David Phoenix, Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University (LSBU) said: “There is an exciting opportunity for universities to be at the forefront of inter-sectoral mobility – enabling people from wider educational and social backgrounds to upskill and reskill throughout their lives, so they can bring their fresh thinking and other skills to the world of engineering.”
Another key recommendation is that industry recognises the need for flexibility. “Flexibility is key to giving everyone the opportunity to fit study around their work, family and other responsibilities,” said Prof Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The Open University. “ A flexible lifelong learning model helps to embed this flexibility and ultimately encourage more diversity in the workforce.”
The Talent 2050 project was supported by Barclays, LSBU, NATS and Pearson. Copies of Talent 2050 final report are available to download here.