What’s going on?
Engineers are some of the most sought after, skilled employees in the UK. According to the Engineering UK: The State of Engineering 2019 report forecast, there is a constant, annual demand for 124,000 engineers and technicians with core engineering skills. There is also an additional requirement for 79,000 ‘related’ roles that require a mix of applied engineering knowledge and skill alongside other skill sets.
Moreover, there is an additional annual shortfall of between 37,000 and 59,000 in meeting the demand for core engineering roles requiring level 3+ skills.
In other words, we are running out of engineers.
In a survey of 250 engineering professionals, 37% identified the skills deficit as having the biggest impact on their sector. Other notable issues included automation within the workplace (22%) and new materials (17%).
Why is the skills shortage happening?
One of the reasons this may be happening is because of the speed of change within the sector. At one stage, employers were saying that job roles change every 10 years, whereas now, it is every 3. This therefore means that the existing workforce have to be constantly up-skilled and re-skilled to keep up with technologies and processes.
This therefore can cause a back log in the training of new, skilled workers. There are of course always hungry new apprentices and graduates joining organisations looking for the training to set them up in their path to becoming a world class engineer, however because the job roles are changing so rapidly there is no one to train them. It is of course necessary and somewhat more of a priority to train your existing workforce. But who is going to take over?
It also poses the problem of not knowing what your company is going to need in 5 years time. What will an engineer’s, or more specifically to Round House, a metal fabricator’s job look like in 5 years time? To counteract this, companies need engineers with a wide range of skills that can be applied to a number of scenarios, but these people are few and far between and not only are they hard to come by, but we enter the problem of having an ageing work force.
The skills shortage is made worse by the upcoming retirement of an ageing workforce. 19.5% of engineers currently working in the UK are due to retire by 2026. This will leave a gap in skills, knowledge and experience.
The UK’s engineering sector employs 19% of the entire working population of the UK and generates 23% of the UK’s total turnover. £1.23 trillion. So it is somewhat essential the engineering industry does not suffer from the impending skills shortage, and something is done to amend this issue.
What is the solution?
Firstly, the engineering industry is still tarnished with this outdated image of it being filled with spanners and dirty overalls, and while that is sometimes the case, it is not always the case. There are so many different career paths within the engineering industry and we at Round House encourage anyone to look into it further and see what is out there!
Another overriding issue that we have previously talked about at Round House is the clear gender imbalance and lack of diversity within the industry. We as an industry are not doing enough to educate the younger generation about what we do in this sector and this is in turn feeding the skills shortage. Less and less girls are growing up wanting to be engineers, which is a massive loss for us as an industry because when they do go down an engineering path, they achieve great grades at university and go on to great things. We are collectively missing a massive opportunity to get hundreds of thousands of skilled engineers into the industry every year by not making more of an effort to tap into 50% of the population.
It is critical that going forward, the younger generation coming through to begin a career in the engineering sector get the proper experience and training they need in order to become good engineers. But this responsibility cannot fall solely on the manufacturers as there is already increased strain on the workforce. The apprentices would soon outnumber the skilled workforce, meaning the workforce would have an increased work load and the apprentices would not get suitable training.
As for the engineering companies themselves, they need to make sure they are not getting left behind. With technologies emerging so quickly and engineers job roles changing from every 10 years a few decades ago to now changing every 3, they need to ensure they are keeping up to date with the latest and greatest. Up-skilling and re-skilling their existing workforces will be essential, however the apprentices and younger generations will also be being taught with these newer technologies in mind. This is about future proofing your business!
In conclusion, the engineering industry, in conjunction with the surrounding communities need to do a few things:
- Rebrand the industry! Get rid of this dirty overall image and show the younger generation exactly what we do.
- Address the gender imbalance – whether this be through ambassadors, education or anything else, the bottom line is we need women in the industry to survive.
- Train the generations – both the younger generation coming through as well as the existing workforce need to be kept up to date with the latest and greatest trends, ensuring no one gets left behind!