MORE THAN 60% of engineering employers say graduates do not have the right industry skills for the workplace, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report.
The report finds that 68% are also concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for working with new technologies. However, 91% of companies agreed that a potential solution to the growing concerns of a skills gap – particularly among graduates and school leavers – is for more employers to provide work experience for those in education and training. This was backed by 76% of employers agreeing that all engineering companies should be compelled to provide work experience to improve the talent pool.
In response to the results, IET is launching a new campaign called “Engineering Work Experience for All”, which will encourage more employers and universities to collaborate to offer work experience to engineering students. IET says the campaign is designed to rally employers, universities, the UK government and students to make a range of work experience opportunities more widely accessible.
Huw Williams, director of production engineering at SPTS Technologies, said: “There is certainly more that could be done between businesses and schools to ensure young people are work-ready. [But] you can’t expect people straight out of education to be ready for the workplace, particularly when you bring in someone at the age of 15/16. You could mandate work experience but that would only work if it is a big enough firm – not every small business is in the position to give the right type of experience.”
The 11th annual skills report was launched by IET at an event in London yesterday. The data is based on extended interviews with over 400 engineering employers in the UK and a survey which asked about the impact of June’s Brexit vote on their recruitment plans.
Of those surveyed, 40% took a pessimistic view of the result, believing that their recruitment will be negatively impacted over the next 4–5 years.
Naomi Climer, IET president, said: “Demand for engineers is high but the report reveals deeper concern than ever around the skills and experience of our future workforce.
“As we are facing an engineering shortfall in the next decade and some uncertainty around skills following Brexit, it is more important than ever that we develop the next generation of ‘home grown’ engineering and technology talent.”
The survey also revealed 52% of employers are currently seeking new engineering and technology recruits and 50% said that a typical new engineering and technology recruit does not meet “reasonable expectations”.
Andy Taylor, chief mechanical engineer at Amec Foster Wheeler said: “In terms of getting the right people, I think that largely companies should help themselves. Education institutions should seek more help from business. They should get people like me to go into college and lecture on the application of what they are learning and the practical stuff which makes up the job. This will help narrow the gap between practice and theory.”
The report also revealed that the skills gap reaches beyond education to entry level positions – 57% of employers are currently, or have recently, experienced problems recruiting senior engineers with 5–10 years’ experience.
Skills gaps stemming from a lack of diversity have also been highlighted in the report. The survey found only 9% of the UK engineering and technology workforce is female and 63% of businesses do not have gender diversity initiatives in place (increased from 57% in 2015); 73% also do not have LGBT or ethnic diversity initiatives in place; and 40% of employers agree that their organisation could do more to recruit people from diverse backgrounds.
In December 2015, the LGBT engineers support group InterEngineering reported that institutional homophobia stemming from a lack of diversity policies is costing the industry up to £11.2bn/y (US$14.6bn/y) in productivity.
Climer added, “We want to draw attention to the importance of continuing professional development in a world where technology is changing fast – and of having clear plans to create a more diverse workforce.”
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