The UK faces an engineering shortfall, with the number of engineering jobs exceeding the number of people entering the sector.
Although 5.7 million employees work at registered engineering companies in the UK, comprising 19% of the total UK’s total employment, the number of roles is still expected to increase.
Amid concerns that the supply of engineers will not be able to meet this demand, CEATA takes a look at Engineering UK’s latest report on the state of engineering.
Continual developments in manufacturing equipment have led to an increase in automation within engineering. Industry turnover reached £198 billion in 2016, marking an increase of 23.5% over a five-year period.
Big data is another sector that continues to grow. Forecasts indicate that it will create 157,000 new jobs by 2020. Strong growth is also expected across architecture and engineering, with 3D printing, resource-efficient sustainable production and robotics driving these developments.
New technology is also shaping the employment requirements of the rail and road infrastructure. Network Rail’s upgrade plan is the largest modernisation programme since Victorian times. It will see an estimated requirement of 7,200 engineering and technical workers by 2020.
Forecasts show that the UK will require 124,000 engineers and technicians with core engineering skills per year. Coupled with the current rates of engineering talent emerging from education, this gives an estimated annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers.
Attracting and retaining talent from the EU and beyond is one way of helping to address this shortfall. However, the proportion of UK engineering students is becoming too low to be sustainable in the long-term. It is therefore important to focus on attracting domestic students as a priority.
Factoring in the demand for engineers trained to Level 3+, the estimated shortfall across the sector is between 83,000, and 110,000.
How can we curb the engineering shortfall?
With such dramatic shortfalls predicted, it is important to redouble efforts to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education and to attract young people into engineering. The government has already put in place various strategies designed to tackle this. The apprenticeship levy facilitates apprenticeships in more companies, allowing engineering firms and students to benefit from the apprenticeship fund. The new assessment system for GCSEs and A Levels uses a number grading system instead of a letter-based one. This allows for better comparison with vocational qualifications such as NVQs.
However, more must be done to bring young people into engineering, particularly women. Less than 1 in 8 engineers are female, and boys are 3.5 times more likely to study A Level Physics. This male-dominance is one reason for females avoiding STEM subjects, which they perceive as being “too manly”. Education facilities should encourage students to make informed decisions that maintain the option of a career in engineering or technology.
While focus must be put on attracting new interest in engineering and providing the future workforce with the necessary skills to fill the employment requirements, care must also be taken to retain, motivate and upskill those who are already in the engineering sector. This includes analysing what makes people want to stay in particular roles and making necessary changes to make the engineering workplace inviting to all, including women and other underrepresented minorities.
Engineering training at CEATA
At CEATA, we are passionate about helping people to enter the engineering workforce. We’re doing our bit to curb the engineering shortfall by offering a wide range of engineering training courses from one-off short courses through to engineering apprenticeships. We want to give the engineers of tomorrow the skills they need to succeed.