Addressing the Engineering Skills Gap In The UK
by Jo Shaer, on November 9, 2015
There is a photograph being shared around LinkedIn of a group of primary school children dressed in hard hats and high-viz jackets being shown around an industrial unit of some kind.
My first question was - where are all the girls? When I read the most recent MAS Barometers, which highlight the lack of skilled workers in UK manufacturing, it made me inquisitive to know more about this problem that is restricting growth.
Engineering skills gap - perception of boys and girls
The lack of girls studying STEM subjects at school is where most people think the problem starts. Although, I think it is more likely to be the fact that factories and industry are seen as dirty, dangerous and not the sort of place where a lady should consider working.
This observation is highlighted by Frank Cavallaro of Fronetics Strategic Advisors, who wrote recently in EBNOnline that 52% of the American teenagers have no interest whatsoever in a manufacturing career.
And in the most recent U.S. Public Opinions on Manufacturing report by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, manufacturing came in last as the career of choice among Generation Y (ages 19-33 years). They think of it as a dead end with a minimal opportunity for personal growth or career advancement.
The Manufacturing Institute's UK Manifesto for 2015 reported that there is a widespread shortage of skilled engineers in the UK. In the report, almost every manufacturing business who responded highlighted extreme difficulties in filling vacant posts, often resorting to importing talent.
The UK needs STEM Graduates
With the Royal Academy of Engineering reporting that the country will need an additional 800,000 graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors by 2020, the Manufacturing Institute recommend that:
All parties should prioritise the encouragement of engineering and STEM-related apprenticeships. These career paths should be protected irrespective of the economic climate.
Director of Engineering and Education Dr Rhys Morgan says
“Part of the issue with engineering graduates not choosing to go into engineering is because of a lack of visibility of employers on campus, while at the same time a range of other businesses from finance, retail and many other sectors will be providing attractive offers. We need to work harder to show engineering students the exciting career opportunities on offer to them if they take up careers in the subject they chose”.
Engineering Graduates don't need A Level grades
So far, it's not working. The Royal Academy of Engineering reported in July 2015 that fewer than half of engineering graduates take up a professional engineering job.
8374 of the 10421 engineering graduates responded to the survey and, of those, just 2867 men and 383 women were in full-time jobs as professional engineers.
Pathways to success in engineering degrees and careers, written by Dr Tim Bullough and Dr Diane Taktak from the University of Liverpool, also highlighted that achieving a good degree in engineering was possible, even without good A-level results in maths and physics.
The report coincided with the launch of the HE Engineering Engagement Programme at the Royal Academy of Engineering. This programme works with major UK engineering employers to target women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and other under-represented groups across a range of universities from which they would not usually recruit.
Women make up less than 10% of the UK engineering workforce! June 23rd saw the second annual National Women In Engineering Day (NWED) to focus attention on inspiring passion for the subject in school-age girls and highlighting the career opportunities.
The event was an enormous success. Organisations, schools, colleges, universities, industry bodies and individual engineers all over the world united to celebrate the great achievements of women engineers and to encourage more girls and women to consider engineering as a career.
Part of this initiative saw the launch of www.sparxx.org.uk. Sparxx aims to provide ongoing support for girls between 11 and 18 who show an interest in CRESTA (Creativity, Engineering, Science, Technology and Art). They provide a targeted stream of communication through social media and newsletters to spark interest.
Initiatives like NWED and the offshoot Sparxx in combination with the uptake of sensible recommendations of bodies such as the Manufacturing Institute are essential to making Engineering more attractive to future generations, particularly girls. Sparxx is particularly pleasing as the initiative is using a sensible approach to getting the message across by using Social Media.
The Pinterest board Sparxx Girls is especially innovative for a sector not known to be trailblazers in 21st-century marketing techniques. It's imperative to know your audience and engage them where they 'hang out'. Pinterest is an interesting space for marketing a business, so well done Sparxx!
How can you address the engineering skills gap for your business?
LinkedIn understand that there is a shortage of skills in many UK industries. They also know that they have access to the largest pool of professionals anywhere. So they have developed ways that you can put your business in front of:
- engineering students at university;
- engineers who may have been made redundant;
- engineers who are looking for a new job; and
- engineers who are not looking for a new job but might be tempted if the right offer were put in front of their nose