THE UK Science Industry Partnership (SIP) has published its first report which highlights current skills shortages in process safety engineering and forecasts shortfalls for chemical engineers and other STEM sectors by 2025.
The report highlights immediate action must be taken to find process safety engineers for critical high hazard (COMAH) sites. They say there are “very few” specialists in process safety and regulation available with the relevant experience needed, outside of large consultancies. The SIP expects the shortage in this area will continue to grow.
The report says chemical engineering skills will shortly reach high demand once more. Although the falling oil price has lessened demand, subsequent recovery and growing pressure on other energy sectors is likely to increase demand for chemical engineering skills by 2025.
Formulation scientists are in short demand as few direct routes are available from education; therefore recruitment is limited to those with industry experience or training up those in aligned areas. Materials scientists and bio process engineers are also on the report’s wish list as industry is scaling up these fields with wider applications and will need to scale up the required manpower too.
The findings from the report echo the thoughts of IChemE president, Jonathan Seville, who noted in his presidential address that there are rich opportunities for chemical and process engineers in the areas of formulation engineering and material science.
SIP has called on the UK government, industry and education to collaborate to deliver solutions, and recommends each plays its respective part in stabilising funding for qualifications and developing and maintaining national standards. It also recommends building and updating transferable skills to industry by calling for increased industrial placements and for government to build appeal for STEM careers to attract young people.
Overall forecasts for STEM predict that there will be a cumulative demand for up to 260,000 staff between 2015 and 2025, with up to 142,000 of those being at professional or graduate level. Most of the positions will arise due to others leaving the industry, largely to retirement, but predicts up to 77,000 of the new jobs will be due to industry growth.
George Freeman, parliamentary under secretary of state for life sciences, welcomed the report. He said, “We are committed to maximising the potential of [UK] scientific talent so that we can drive economic growth through innovation and give more young people the chance to work in this exciting industry.”
SIP has pledged to monitor and respond to emerging skills markets and report to its partners in government and industry on sudden changes. It has already delivered over 6,000 individual learners into STEM sectors over a two-year period.
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