Plant & Works Engineering
Action to tackle UK engineering skills gap
Published:  29 May, 2024

Dame Judith Hackitt Chair of the Enginuity Board is calling on engineering and manufacturing employers to pledge their support in addressing 5 key priorities in Enginuity’s new ‘Manifesto for Change’.

A decade in the making, Enginuity’s ‘Manifesto for Change’ is based on in-depth knowledge of the UK engineering and manufacturing sector that currently ranks 8th worldwide*. It calls for a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach between policymakers, employers, and education providers.

With a general election date now confirmed, now is the time to ensure policymakers and political leaders understand the potential economic impact of the sector’s skills gaps challenges; and back the funding and systems adaptations in the next Parliament and beyond.

Make UK, SDE Technology, Automate UK and the Design and Technology Association are among those that have already pledged their support.

Organisations and individuals can read the full manifesto and pledge their support here:

The leading ‘sector connector’ charity, Enginuity pinpoints five priority actions that will secure the future of UK engineering and manufacturing and build a world-class sector:

1. Make qualifications and learning more flexible with a focus on key transferable skills,

2. Incentivise recruitment in priority industries with skills shortages,

3. Ensure that funding for technical and vocational education, standards, and qualifications is commensurate with the critical need to upskill and reskill the engineering and manufacturing workforce,

4. Establish a skills observatory using data and AI to analyse cross-sector and sector-specific needs,

5. Refine the Apprenticeship Levy in England and make funding systems more transparent for engineering and manufacturing employers across the UK.

Dame Judith Hackitt OBE, Chair of the Enginuity Group, said: “None of us can know exactly what the future’s engineering and manufacturing jobs will look like, but we know they will be different from today’s. Now is the time to act. If we do nothing, the sector will survive, but it will fail to thrive, and we will fail in our endeavour to be a leading global player in engineering and manufacturing.”

Ann Watson, Chief Executive of Enginuity, said: “The engineering and manufacturing sector is staring in the face of challenges and opportunities. In order to meet them head-on, we need employers, training centres, educational institutions, and policymakers to work together. If we act now, we can prepare the existing workforce and attract a whole new generation of engineering talent.”

More details on Enginuity’s Skills Action Plan

1) Upskilling and reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce is a key challenge facing industries within engineering and manufacturing.

People are a valuable resource, and considerable investment has gone into the training these valuable people have already had. But in a world of exciting technological change, it is vital that we constantly upskill and reskill workers to match the pace of that change and keep them in our organisations.

We need to understand and quantify future skills requirements, support the modularisation of qualifications and learning, and equip our workforce with skills that can be transferred between industries and sub-industries to support the progression and mobility of labour.

We must work together to make qualifications and learning more flexible, instil a common core curriculum based on key transferable skills, and reform the funding system to enable this.

Enginuity wants to work with governments, agencies, employers, trade associations, professional engineering institutions, and other stakeholders to help identify the key skills that should sit at the heart of all post-16 learning to support parity of esteem, transferability of skills, progression, and labour market resilience.

2) Attracting people to engineering and manufacturing

Industries within engineering and manufacturing must continue to attract new talent of all ages to maintain the workforce needed to be competitive and sustainable.

We need to talk differently about engineering and manufacturing, promoting not just jobs but careers, showing how important it is in delivering benefits to society and the economy, and we need to demonstrate that we welcome talent from diverse backgrounds.

We need to ensure transparent and accessible career pathways for all who wish to enter industries within engineering and manufacturing – including those whose geographical location or social background might previously have felt like a barrier. We believe in the power of apprenticeships as a route into the sector and we need to work hard to attract increased numbers to follow this route.

It’s vitally important that the industry collectively promotes engineering and manufacturing as a whole in addition to the opportunities within its diverse industries. Enginuity will continue to act as the sector connector, bringing stakeholders together to ensure that campaign messaging is consistent, clear, and complementary.

3) Flexible and responsive qualification and learning systems

It is essential that qualifications and standards are up-to-date and transferable between nations/regions and industries, and that we capture and pass on the knowledge and skills of the existing workforce to new workers through mentoring programmes.

Training and learning should also make the best use of modern technology to ensure that there is a sustainable and far-reaching network of provision at all levels, and which meets the needs of employers of all sizes. Funding needs to be commensurate with the scale of the challenge.

Enginuity will share comprehensive, up-to-date research so that training and learning decision-makers better understand the technical skills of the future, to ensure that qualifications and programmes are relevant, sustainable, well-designed, and effectively delivered.

4) A robust and cohesive evidence base

Policymakers and sector stakeholders need sound evidence on which to make their decisions on how to address recruitment and skills challenges.

We will collaborate with employers and policymakers across the UK to create a single skills observatory for our engineering and manufacturing sector and the industries within them that will receive comprehensive destination data including achievement rates on apprenticeships, technical and vocational education, degrees, and job and further learning outcomes.

5) Funding systems

For us to succeed in our national endeavour in engineering and manufacturing, we need to ensure the funding system is transparent and as simple as possible so that employers can understand what funding is available for early career training, as well as upskilling and reskilling their existing workforce.

We must recognise that further and higher education requires additional funding both for purchasing capital equipment and in order to attract inspirational trainers with up-to-date skills.

Enginuity is keen to work collaboratively with employers and national and regional bodies to optimise the use of the Apprenticeship Levy in England and all other post-16 funding.

*All stats for manufacturing only from MakeUK

UK manufacturing currently:

● Contributes £224bn GVA

● Ranks 8th globally by value.

● Employs 2.6m people.

● Accounts for 49% of all exports.

● Contributes 41% of business R&D.