Urgent action needed to stop future engineering skills shortage

Published:  22 November, 2011

Future engineering projects including High Speed Rail and the scaling up of UK nuclear power could be fatally undermined by a dangerous shortfall in engineering graduates, according to a report launched by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The ‘Meeting the Challenge: Demand and Supply of Engineers in the UK’ report estimates that the UK needs 31,100 new graduate engineers every year for the next five years to meet industry demand in 2017. Currently just 12,000 engineering students graduate annually.

Stephen Tetlow, chief executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:

“A shortage of engineers would affect every person in Britain, potentially damaging the country’s vitally important manufacturing sector, energy and transport systems, as well as the UK’s global competitiveness.

 “Worryingly, we are not producing enough engineering graduates to meet forecast demand. Failure to attract more of the next generation into the profession could prove disastrous for the future of British engineering.”

The report also looks into the need to plug the leak of engineering graduates moving to non-engineering careers, such as finance and management. Between 40% and 50% of engineering graduates move into non-engineering careers.

The report states that there is little quantifiable evidence of an overall shortage of graduate engineers in the UK today, due partly to the current economic climate. However this situation will quickly change without urgent action as ambitious infrastructure projects, a planned increase in UK manufacturing as a share of GDP and the implementation of low carbon energy plans all call for a flood of new engineers.

To meet this demand, the Institution calls for:


  • A clear Government plan that can unite industry, educators and the engineering profession in addressing engineering skills shortages;
  • Industry to invest in schemes that promote engineering in schools, and change work place culture to make it more attractive to young people;
  • The profession as a whole to create more flexible routes into engineering as an alternative to a university degree, such as work-based learning;
  • An industry-led careers service that might attract more graduates into engineering occupations.

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