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Warning over shortage of engineering graduates

Warning over shortage of engineering graduates

The UK needs to increase the number of engineering graduates it produces by as much as 50%, according to a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The findings suggest that around 1.25million science, engineering and technology (SET) professionals and technicians are needed by 2020, including a high proportion of engineers, to support the UK's economic recovery.

The analysis also shows that the combined replacement and expansion demand for SET occupations will be 830,000 SET professionals and 450,000 SET technicians, but this is merely to maintain the industry on an even keel rather than to support strong growth.

According to the Academy, the minimum number of STEM graduates required just to maintain the status quo is 100,000 a year with a further 60,000 individuals with Level 3+ (broadly equivalent to A-Level) STEM qualifications for the period 2012 to 2020.

However, only 90,000 STEM students currently graduate annually and, as around a quarter of engineering students choose non-SET occupations, there is already a shortfall.

Sir John Parker GBE FREng, president of the Academy, said: "We need an increase in the number of STEM graduates over the next 10 years in support of rebalancing the UK economy.

"I am delighted to see that the government is taking on board the message that a proper industrial strategy is essential for effective and sustained economic recovery. Only with such a framework and vision in place can we create 'the pull' that defines our future educational and skills needs. We must encourage employers to work with universities with the aim of producing more engineers."

As well as foreseeing that demand for STEM skills will exceed demand in the foreseeable future, the report highlights the under-representation of women in industry, as well as people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The full report, Jobs and growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy, can be downloaded below.

Laura Hopperton

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There are more than enough engineers. They just choose to work in other sectors. Producing more will only benefit those sectors as the fundamental problem is still present. Engineering does not pay well. It is terrible pay. Engineers are highly desirable in other sectors including finance, management, accounting etc. Until pay rises significantly, engineering will continue to not be atractive to engineers.

Posted by: Engineer, 05/08/2013
I agree with Nick, we do need to "bang the drum". Government strategy is, in my opinion, largely irrelevant now as there's too much work needed to gain momentum and real issues need to be "dumbed down" for them to properly understand what's needed.
The work we have done recently has highlighted a couple of major disjoints, one of which fundamentally impacts on this study.
I believe that UK universities do not have the mechanism, nor the motivation, to engage with our SME-based electronics industry. Further, the SME-based industry perceives their current projects as more important than recruiting and fostering new talent. This disjoint must be addressed in order for the industry to succeed.
Put simply, the bulk of the industry is still invisible to new graduates (and government) and the industry has vacancies but doesn't know how to fill them.

Putting the serious issues to one side, I'd like to propose a game of "spot the engineer", start with the RAE's own document which opens on a photo of a welder, features several construction workers, a milling machine operator and a token female (chemistry student?). I have every respect for the Royal Academy of Engineering but come on people, we have enough problems without reinforcing our own nation's misconceptions!

Posted by: Philip Mayo, 01/10/2012
This problem has been with us for some time - largely due to years of neglect by Government and society as a whole, of our manufacturing base.
Sadly there is no quick fix. The emergence - however slow and disjointed - of an industrial strategy is critical, so too is change in education. Additionally, and this is key, we must do far more as a nation to promote our industrial excellence. As I pointed out in a recent blog - - this goes beyond simply celebrating our industrial heritage at the Olympics.
It’s in all our interests to shout about the opportunities, job satisfaction and potential wealth creation that a successful manufacturing sector can achieve.

Posted by: Nick Brooks, 01/10/2012

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