The conflicting nature of Britain’s engineering industry was underlined in a recent report from national body EngineeringUK, a not for profit organisation, which works in partnership with the engineering community to promote the vital role of engineers and engineering to society.
On the one hand, the research, called simply: The State of Engineering 2016, shows how this dynamic and successful sector is driving productivity and delivering benefits across the economy.
But on the other hand, it reveals a stark gap between the supply and demand for people with engineering skills and does little to allay the concerns many of us have for the long term future of the industry.
To start with the positive figures.
More than a quarter (27%) of total UK GDP is now generated by engineering, says the research. This amounts to £445.6bn with turnover for engineering having grown by 3.4% to £1.21tn. Employment in engineering has also increased to over 5.5million jobs and the industry now supports 14.5 million jobs overall.
The report also underlines what a positive impact the engineering sector is having on other areas of the economy. For every new job in engineering, two more are created outside of the sector and every £1 GVA generated in engineering generates £1.45 elsewhere.
In addition, the figures show that engineering is 68% more productive than the retail and wholesale sector, with apprentices making a significant contribution.
The less positive news was to be found in EngineerUK’s analysis of the dearth of people with the right skills entering the industry, thus potentially leading to a “skills crisis”.
The report states that engineering ranked within the top five in-demand sectors for permanent placements for most of 2015. However, the UKCES Employer Skills survey showed that the science, research, engineering and technology professionals’ category had the highest ratio of skills shortage vacancies of any of the 25 occupational sub-major groups. At 43%, it is almost double the overall average of 23%.
In a CBI survey, 44% of engineering, science and hi-tech firms reported difficulties in finding experienced recruits with the right STEM skills.
The reports says that over the 2012-2022 period, engineering companies will need to recruit 2.56 million people with 257,000 of them being new vacancies. The largest proportion of job openings will occur in engineering enterprises within construction and the information and communications sectors (27.3% each).
Analysis of the data on the demand for skills at certain levels and the supply of people entering the sector shows an annual shortfall of 29,000 people with level 3 skills and 40,000 with level 4+ skills over the period.
This disturbing scenario is a hot topic of discussion within our industry and one we have broached several times in recent blogs.
We wholeheartedly agree with the action points EngineeringUK puts forward as a conclusion to its report. The body calls for collaborative action across government, engineering businesses, the education sector and the wider engineering community to realise these following recommendations:
-A doubling of the number of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple sciences.
-A two-fold increase in the number of Advanced Apprenticeship achievements.
-A doubling of the number of engineering and technology and other related STEM and non-STEM graduates who are known to enter engineering occupations.
-Provision of careers inspiration for all 11-14 year olds.
-Support for teachers and careers advisors delivering careers information.
Ambitious as these goals may be, given the value the engineering sector brings to both society and economy, its crucial we all work to ensure these targets are met.
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