We know only too well that there is an acute shortage of engineering graduates to fulfil the ever-rising demand for specialist talent.
The UK needs 69,000 more engineers just to keep up and meet industry demand, according to a recent EngineeringUK report. But thanks to a lot of great work being done to encourage our schoolchildren to take up engineering, that tide could soon be turning.
One of those initiatives is Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (#TEWeek18), which took place just recently (from 5-9 November). Led by the engineering community and in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, it has been running now for six years in a bid to generate interest about a career that offers so many wide-ranging opportunities.
Given that parents can often sway the career choice of their children (and even push them, dare I say it, in the wrong direction!), it was particularly pleasing to read about their thoughts on engineering. In a survey commissioned by Engineering Week, 43% of parents felt that engineers make a real difference to the world, a figure higher than nursing or policing.
Much has also been written about making Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the ‘STEM’ subjects – more attractive to women. The UK has one of the lowest percentages of female engineers in Europe – only 15.1% of engineering undergraduates (2017) were women. There are several organisations also working tirelessly to boost these numbers.
Engineering talent in the UK
Despite the challenges, the great news is that the engineering industry in the UK is booming. Take the example of Crossrail, which is Europe’s largest construction project. It is estimated that the equivalent of 55,000 full-time jobs and over 1,000 apprenticeships will be created, while adding £42bn to the UK’s GDP over the course of the works. Or the High Speed 2 or ‘HS2’ project. Chairman Sir Terry Morgan recently said that the rail link would generate around a half a million jobs.
But it’s not just the rail industry that is thriving. The UK’s aerospace industry is the largest in Europe (only behind the US) and commands 17% of the world’s market share. Exports of British-based car manufacturers reached an all-time high in 2015 – ‘Motorsport Valley’ (where many Formula One teams are based) also contributes billions to the economy, testament to the skilled engineering workforce that we have in the UK.
There are plenty of opportunities both in the public and private sectors for candidates with the right training, experience and specialist skills. Average UK salaries are around the £50k mark, so it’s a lucrative career choice. As Nusrat Ghani, a Minister in the Department for Transport and MP for Wealden, who heads up the government’s ‘Year of Engineering’ campaign, said, “Engineering plays a leading role in tackling some of our biggest challenges, from developing sustainable energy to harnessing the power of AI to fight disease.”
Governments, organisations and schools must continue to work together to ensure that the UK can stay competitive in what has historically always been of our most important industries.