Engineering Skills

Mind the Gap: Addressing the Skills Gap in the Engineering Industry

The engineering and infrastructure industry is growing at a rapid rate. In the last decade, the sector has seen the number of people working in engineering rise from 5.4 million in 2010 to 5.7 million in 2021, with a peak of 6.3 million reached in 2019.
The UK’s efforts to become a net zero economy also means that vacancies for ‘green engineering’ roles have increased by more than half (55%) over the last five years. A report commissioned by Engineering UK cited that demand for engineers is predicted to grow faster than for other occupations, and that a quarter of all job postings in the UK are currently for engineering roles.
It's tempting for this to sound buoyant, but there’s a rising concern: a skills’ shortage. Employers may be hiring to respond to the call for future growth, but there’s a gap between the skills demanded by employers and those possessed by the available workforce. This gap poses significant challenges to the industry’s economy and future innovation.
Understanding the Gap
The root causes of the engineering skills gap are multifaceted. One primary factor is the rapid pace of technological advancement, which continually shifts the skills required in the engineering field. Traditional engineering education programmes may struggle to keep pace with these changes, leading to a disparity between the skills graduates possess and those needed by employers.
The perception of engineering as a career choice among young people also plays a crucial role. Many students may not fully understand the diverse opportunities within the engineering sector or may be deterred by misconceptions about the nature of engineering work. This results in fewer individuals pursuing engineering education and careers, exacerbating the skills gap.
As competition intensifies within the industry, it's no surprise that many organisations are scrambling to retain their top talent. Talent retention has become increasingly crucial, with businesses across various sectors exploring ways to invest in their employees.
Impact on Industries
The ramifications of the engineering skills gap are profound, affecting various industries across the UK. For instance, sectors such as manufacturing, construction and energy rely heavily on skilled engineers to drive innovation and productivity. Without an adequate workforce equipped with the necessary skills, these industries may struggle to remain competitive on a global scale.
The lack of skilled engineers can impede progress in key areas such as sustainable development, renewable energy and infrastructure modernisation. Addressing these challenges requires a highly skilled workforce capable of tackling complex problems and driving technological innovation.
Bridging the Divide
To bridge the skills gap in engineering, concerted efforts are needed from various stakeholders, including government bodies, educational institutions, industry leaders and professional organisations.

Educational Reform

Revising engineering curricula to align with industry needs and emerging technologies is essential. Emphasising practical skills, interdisciplinary collaboration and real-world applications can better prepare students for the demands of the workforce.

Promoting STEM Education

Encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects from an early age can help cultivate a pipeline of future engineers. Outreach programmes, mentorship initiatives and hands-on experiences can spark curiosity and engagement among young learners.

Industry-Academia Collaboration

Closer collaboration between academia and industry can ensure that educational programmes remain relevant and responsive to industry needs. Establishing partnerships for research, internships and apprenticeships can provide students with valuable hands-on experience and industry insights.

Diversity and Inclusion

Fostering diversity and inclusivity within the engineering profession is crucial for tapping into a wider talent pool and fostering innovation. Efforts to attract and retain underrepresented groups, including women and minorities, can help address longstanding imbalances in the field.

Lifelong Learning and Upskilling

Encouraging continuous learning and professional development among engineers is essential in a rapidly evolving landscape. Providing opportunities for upskilling, reskilling and lifelong learning can enable engineers to stay abreast of new technologies and adapt to changing job requirements.
The higher rates of employee turnover in engineering compared to many other sectors, only serves to highlight the critical role of effective leadership. Effective leadership has emerged as one of the top sought-after business skills by prospective employers in the engineering industry.
Upskilling ensures that businesses remain pertinent in a swiftly evolving economy while also signalling that the company is committed to investing in and supporting its employees' professional development and career aspirations. This, in turn, fosters talent retention.
The engineering skills gap poses a significant challenge to the UK and addressing this gap requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses educational reform, industry collaboration and efforts to promote diversity and lifelong learning.
By investing in the next generation of engineers, fostering collaboration between academia and industry and promoting inclusivity within the profession, the UK can overcome the skills gap and harness the full potential of its engineering talent to drive sustainable growth and prosperity in the years to come.

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Need further advice? Our expert team at Ascend are knowledgeable on all aspects of the engineering industry and the challenges of its insurance needs.

Contact Chris Buchholz today on 07842 021430 or by email,

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