Tomorrow's Engineers Week: How UK manufacturers plan to overcome skills shortages
Engineers will design and create the innovations that will shape our world and young people certainly feel inspired by the world they imagine for the future. Talk to the UK engineering community and you get a different view. Any excitement about the future is often tempered with very serious concerns about the disparity between the number of engineers the industry needs and the numbers coming through the ranks.
With over 2.5 million estimated job openings in UK engineering companies by 2022 more needs to be done to inspire, inform and advise young people so we can build the next generation of engineers. If the UK is to meet the demand we will need to double the number of apprentices and graduates entering the industry. There is rising demand for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates throughout the European Union. According to CEDEFOP, demand for STEM professionals and associate professionals is expected to rise by around 8 percent between now and 2025, which is higher than the 3 percent growth forecast for other occupations.
Our research shows that while three quarters of UK parents would recommend a career in engineering to their children almost half say they don’t know a lot about what engineers do. Nearly half (47 percent) of secondary school children would consider a career in engineering, with 29 percent of them girls. However, only a third (34 percent) say they know what to do next in order to become an engineer.
If we are to build the talent pipeline engineering so desperately needs, we need to do more to ensure schools and colleges have the information and resources they need to support the engineering ambitions of their students and that parents are well informed about the opportunities. More than half (56 percent) of the GCSE science, technology, engineering and maths teachers we surveyed have been asked for advice about engineering careers by their pupils in the last year. When almost one in five STEM teachers say they feel a career in engineering is undesirable you realise how important an issue this is.
The aim of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week in the UK is to change perceptions of engineering among young people, their parents and teachers and celebrate the everyday engineering heroes that design, create and innovate to improve our lives. The Week shines a spotlight on engineering and highlights the incredible range of career opportunities for people with engineering skills.
Smaller companies can struggle to compete with global conglomerates when it comes to recruitment, they need to work harder to secure new recruits and retain existing talent. However, skills shortages are neither restricted to SMEs nor a problem unique to the UK. Roughly 40 percent of establishments in Europe are having difficulty finding workers with the skills they require. Manpower Group’s Global Talent Shortage Survey 2014 shows that the top three shortages globally are skilled trades, engineers (second place for the third year running) and then technicians.
We need to widen and deepen the talent pool and to do that we need to encourage more young people to consider engineering careers. According to Eurostat youth unemployment across 28 EU member states stood at 22.9 percent in February 2014, more than double the overall unemployment rate of 10.6 percent. With the exception of Austria, Germany and Luxembourg, all member states have seen an increase in the number of young people not in employment, education or training since the peak of the economic crisis in 2008. With the right inspiration we may be able to give some of those young people an opportunity to find work in engineering, which is why we make available careers information that highlights the range of routes into the industry and the diverse opportunities available.
The Tomorrow’s Engineers programme aims to ensure that every child will understand the variety, excitement and opportunity presented by a career in engineering, with an equal number of girls and boys aspiring to become an engineer, so that UK employers of all sizes and in all sectors get the engineers they need. In working together to widen the talent pool - bringing people into the industry from all backgrounds and via all routes – we will create a more level playing field when it comes to recruitment.
During Tomorrow’s Engineers Week Shell announced a £1m+ investment in the Tomorrow’s Engineers programme, which last year, directly reached over 50,000 students in 1,200 UK schools. We call on engineering employers of every size and sector across the UK to join our national network. We need to join forces to double the number of engineering-related graduates and apprentices. We want them to give schools and colleges access to high-quality careers information and resources and to open their doors to show young people just how exciting a career as a 21st Century engineer can be.