Industry needs to peak the interest of new potential engineers
Each year, with the release of school examination results, we are regaled with the notion that attainment levels continue to improve (‘it’s because exams are easier’, scream the tabloids) and the rush to find a university place becomes harder than ever.
That should translate to more highly skilled individuals and a deeper talent pool from which to populate the process industry’s personnel needs should it not? Not necessarily so. Because according to the annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey, published in June 2013, there remains a perennial skills shortage in the key UK growth sectors, especially the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries.
Two of the key findings from the survey of 294 firms (employing 1.24 million workers) showed that:
- Crucially, as many as “39% are struggling to recruit workers with the advanced, technical STEM skills they need – with 41% saying shortages will persist for the next three years.”
- Just as gloomily, “almost half lack confidence in getting high-skilled workers in future overall – with more acute concerns in key sectors like manufacturing, construction and engineering.”
According to EngineeringUK: “Engineering companies are projected to have 2.74 million job openings from 2010 – 2020, 1.86 million of which will need engineering skills. Of these, approximately 87,000 per year will require people with degree (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualifications.
“Currently the UK produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year. There will also be demand for around 69,000 people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year. Yet only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level.”
With rapid advancements and societal demands the engineering industry effectively needs to double the number of graduate recruits. So why aren’t today’s generation of school leavers prepared to stake their hefty tuition fees on this relatively lucrative and innovative career choice?
“Tomorrow’s Engineers” is a resource tool that’s led by EngineeringUK and the Royal Academy of Engineering. It attributes a real lack of awareness amongst young people about what engineering actually entails and how it makes a difference to their world.
It says: “Recent research shows that six out of ten people were unable to name a significant engineering innovation that had made a big impact on their lives. Even more worryingly only 12% of 12-16 year olds surveyed said that they know what an engineer does.”
Clearly awareness of engineering at a young age is imperative to make informed career decisions. Can learning on the job, with an apprenticeship, still act as that conduit? With projections estimating a need to triple the current numbers of apprentices the answer is a very definite ‘yes.’
Rolls Royce are one of the leading exponents of apprentice schemes and they’re putting their vast experience (and resources) towards a tailored, modern offering. They offer “A-Level entry programmes that promise world-class training, the potential to earn a Masters degree, the chance to become a senior manager and £17,000 a year after just 18 months.” In 2012, they took on 260 new apprentices.
Elsewhere, Siemens has sponsored a number of University Technical Colleges, across the UK, to upskill young people interested in engineering and manufacturing. As a result the business took on over 160 apprentices in 2012, which for the first time exceeded their intake of graduates. It has also launched an Education Portal that will “explicitly designed to encourage young people to engage with engineering and manufacturing related subjects.”
Are these modest gains really enough though? With an ageing engineering population and difficulties retaining quality talent, it seems the influx of new engineers needs to rise dramatically if supply is ever to meet demand.
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