Engineering skills crisis prompts calls for urgent government action

Published:  02 February, 2022

‘The UK skills crisis will keep growing unless government and industry take action’. This fear was highlighted by the IET off the back of its recent skills survey which found that less than half of new engineering recruits have either the necessary technical or soft skills needed for work within the industry.

The impact of missing skills means 45% of companies who see a skills shortage within young people provide additional training for apprentices/graduates who are new to the industry, whereas a quarter simply recruits fewer apprentices and graduates as a result (25%).

Two-thirds (71%) of the UK engineering workforce who are experiencing internal skills gaps say it is down to missing engineering or technical skills.

Almost all (96%) engineering employers who had identified a skills shortage within general applicants say that this skills deficit impacts their business in some way.

The most common impacts of a skills shortage amongst applicants are around the recruitment pathway – either causing difficulty recruiting (50%) or making recruitment timelines longer (47%).

A lack of recruitment from a diverse talent pool may also be fuelling the problem, with only a third of businesses taking action to improve the diversity of their workforce across gender (33%) or ethnicity (30%).

When asked what support businesses need from government to improve skills nationally, more funding for apprenticeships came out on top (54%), with more support to train or reskill in priority areas (51%) and better careers advice and guidance in schools and colleges (49%) next in line.

Simon Edwards, Director of Governance and External Engagement at the IET, said: “Over the last 12 months the UK has continued to go through economic uncertainty, underpinned by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

This coupled with a drive to deliver on the UK’s net-zero targets and the emergence in engineering companies of new roles with a change to the skill-set required has meant we are seeing a sustained skills gap that will continue to grow unless government and industry take action.

“Workers are in high demand but we don’t have them readily available recruits with the right skills to fill the labour market – something we have been reporting via the skills survey for the last 15 years.

“Frustratingly nothing has changed. Additionally, this year, engineering employers are reporting a general lack of applicants for roles causing more difficulty in recruitment (34%) – a marked increase in 2020 (22%).

Engineering companies across the UK now have to look to improve profitability and productivity with fewer staff than before.

“We are urging more businesses to provide work experience opportunities for young people to help with the rollout of T Levels and more apprenticeships. To solve this skills crisis there needs to be deeper engagement between government, employers, and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy.

“The IET has already started engaging with government by calling for the embedding of engineering in the existing science, technology and mathematics learning at primary school.”

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