The Future of UK Engineering: Will Supply Meet Demand?

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The future of UK engineering is inextricably linked with the amount of engineers coming out of university. In order for the UK to continue economic development, we therefore need an increased supply of high quality graduates. In this article we are going to look at the skill shortage of engineers, and will conclude on the outlook for the future.

UK Engineering – Skills Shortage

Many students choose to study engineering because of the job security prospects. However when told of the difficulties graduates are having in getting jobs and placements it prompts oneself to question the truth behind this so called ‘Engineer shortage’. So, what are the facts? If I get a good engineering degree, will I be able to walk into a job after graduating? In short, the answer to that is essentially a resounding YES.

In January 2015, Engineering UK released ‘The State of Engineering’, a report highlighting the urgent demand for engineering graduates and the benefits engineering has on the UK economy. It predicts that by 2022, engineers will have the potential to create an extra £27 billion per year in the UK. Engineering expertise will be essential in addressing the impact of an increasing population regarding the sustainable provision of food, water and energy together with mitigating the effects of climate change.  This is only achievable if a further 257,000 engineering jobs get created in the next 7 years. With 50% of the working population expected to retire within the next 24 years, filling their positions whilst creating the 257,000 others will require 182,000 new engineers per year.

The number of students accepted to study engineering in higher education increased by 6.8% in 2014. This is henceforth set to continue to increase.  Although positive, this rate of growth is not satisfactory. Each year there is a 12-19% increase in companies reporting a skills shortage. The causes of this are not just down to lack of applications. The following graph shows the reasons for companies having problems with recruiting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skilled staff.

Employment Chart

The Reality

Nearly half of the companies surveyed said that the quality of STEM graduates was not adequate. 39% found graduates had insufficient work experience and a third said the qualifications are not relevant to business needs. This has thus identified the importance of the integration and communication between industry and education. The UK government have begun attempting to address this issue. Introduction of STEM schemes in high schools encourage pupils to aspire to jobs in STEM subjects. Also, the UK government has started investing £67 million in improving the calibre and number of maths and physics teachers.  There has already been some success. The number of students studying Chemical engineering has grown by 154% after the ICHemE’s WhyNotChemEng campaign. This initiative highlighted the effectiveness of industry and education working together.

In 2014, the UK engineering sector was responsible for 27.1% of Britain’s GDP. For every new engineering job created, an additional two jobs are created in the economy. The demand for engineering expertise in the UK has never been greater. The industry, government and education need to address the immediate issues that are harnessing the interest of high school and university students studying STEM related subjects and providing high-quality, relevant training.

Written by a guest writer Ellie Russell.

SEE ALSO: The Future of the UK Manufacturing Industry

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