Plant & Works Engineering
Collaborative action needed
Published:  08 July, 2015

As the UK economy recovers, those in the manufacturing sector need to work together with education providers to close the skills gap and create a high-quality talent pool, says Andy Jones, managing director at Mattei Compressors.

The shortage of young people in engineering has been a concern for some time, but with four out of five manufacturers reporting recruitment difficulties[i], and an estimated 87,000[ii] new engineers required each year, the need to attract younger people to the industry is becoming increasingly urgent.

According to the EEF Skills Shortage Manifesto 2015, the demand for engineers and technicians remains high, with over half the engineering companies surveyed looking to recruit an apprentice in the next 12 months. However, the Engineering Report 2015[iii], reported a deficit of skilled workers running to 55,000 unfilled vacancies per year.

Despite 59% of companies seeing a shortage of engineers as a threat to their business[iv], not enough is being done with schools and colleges to attract potential engineers and technicians.

The evidence and trends presented in this year’s Engineering UK report suggests we need a two-fold increase in the number of engineering graduates, we need to double the numbers of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple sciences and grow the number of students studying physics A level to match those of maths.

In addition to the shortage, issues have arisen surrounding employer expectations versus the ability of new recruits. The EEF Manifesto found that 57% of employers felt applicants did not have sufficient practical experience, and only 36% of STEM teachers felt confident in giving engineering careers advice. This suggests better collaboration is needed between employers and educators to reach the standards we need.

We need to collaborate as an industry, working with schools and colleges, whilst maintaining pressure on the Government to support STEM subject areas.

Within the compressed air industry, we encourage the upskilling and training of the workforce, and BCAS (British Compressed Air Society) has a number of training courses on offer. But despite being considered the industrial sector’s fourth utility, and being a growing industry with a range of diverse career paths, we too are fighting to generate interest from young people.

Perhaps the pressure needs to come from the top down – MPs encouraging employers within their constituencies to collaborate with local education facilities. Either way, a greater emphasis must be placed on encouraging and addressing the skills shortage if we wish to meet the estimated demand of 87,000 new engineers each year.

[i] EEF Skills Manifesto


[iii] Engineering UK 2015

[iv] UK Recruitment Index 2014

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