Engineering in the UK is at risk of suffering from a severe skills shortage, according to a new report from industry group Engineering the Future.
The organisation represents more than 450,000 members across the UK, and says that a combination of demographic change and poor quality education about jobs in the industry is taking a serious toll on the number of younger workers pursuing careers in engineering.
In particular, manufacturing is bearing the brunt of this, since many young people hold misconceptions about careers in the industry. In fact, many believe that it is poorly paid, dirty work which comes with high physical demands. In addition, a large proportion of young people believe manufacturing is an insecure sector where redundancy rates are high.
As a result, relatively few young people are now thinking of working in manufacturing – and those who are, such as engineering graduates, are being “taught to pass exams” instead of being burnished with useful skills, the report says.
But at the same time, a sizeable proportion of the existing highly skilled workforce are now in the latter stages of their careers. As they retire over the next few years, the report says that many companies will struggle to fill the gap they leave behind.
“It's great news to see that the UK's manufacturing industry, which is often perceived as struggling, is in such fine form,” says Nigel Fine, chair of the Engineering the Future Plenary that compiled the report.
“The priority now must be to make sure it stays that way. A two-way dialogue between government and manufacturers will ensure that support can be consistently delivered to improve this valuable part of the economy.”
Overall, this ensures that skilled personnel from all disciplines could be valuable assets for the industry in the future, meaning that those from other sectors might find it easier and more rewarding to train into the manufacturing sector. What’s more, it means that people with the right skills and talents are likely to be needed to provide training for a new generation.