The Engineering Skills Gap- Part 2

Skills Gap

In a second part of an interview with the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF), Mike Maddock and Dan Fleetcroft of PES Performance discussed the new routes individuals can take to enter a career within such a prosperous sector.

Mike began the discussion and stated that he believes, “The route to become an engineer just seems too difficult for young people. Dan is Chair of Sheffield’s University Technical College (UTC) and we are really trying to drive the young generation by focusing on both emotional intelligence (EQ) and a student’s IQ. The apprenticeship route is really adding value, along with advanced apprenticeships.

“You can see many students that would have traditionally taken the academic university route are now going into the apprenticeships, working with companies on a tailored programme and then moving towards a degree/ professional qualification. The EQ and IQ balance are key – and coming back to positive messages about engineering, we need to communicate that starting as a technician is no barrier and can lead to becoming an engineer if you wish. There are different routes, but you can still end up with the same result.”

Dan continued to say, “The beauty of engineering is that the route to engineering can be so different. If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, you must go to medical school or law school – there’s not really another option. Some of the best engineers I know did a couple of A-Levels or a GSCE and went on to design racing cars, aeroplanes and space rockets.

“I’m torn between protecting the degree qualification, because I think it adds value to it, but not making it elitist or making it something that this generation can’t inspire to be. I don’t know the answer, but it feels like there needs to be something to really show the opportunity that engineering will offer.”

Mike addressed some key statistics which this ‘new’ route into engineering may solve. “It’s great to see where we are going with apprenticeships but again we still need to drive that. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s #‘This is Engineering’ campaign is working with key partners to change the perception of engineering among young people aged 13-18. It shows that only 11% of all engineers are female, and that the UK will need 1.6 million engineers by 2025.

“I’m not sure that we are going to achieve these figures but if we can increase the interest of young people in engineering and also offset some of that requirement with the introduction of new technology, digitisation and automation, we will have a better opportunity for success.”

Jim Davison of the EEF mentioned the issue of future restrictions with regards to the movement of people and asked what this could mean for the skills shortage within engineering.

Mike replied by saying, “After doing some research about the supply of talent and people across Europe according to Eurostat, in current EU member countries the population cohort between the ages of 15 and 64 is expected to decline from 67 percent of the total population to 56 percent by 2060.

The population group aged 60 and older is expected to grow from 18 percent to 30 percent in the same period.it is predicted that 12 of the 27 European nations are going to experience population decline by 2042.

This means we are going to have a larger aging population and less of a working population. Whereas if you look at India, more than 50% of its population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35 with high levels of education, and many coming through engineering. So, firms will need to look globally for skilled staff.”

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