Is anyone doing anything about the looming engineering skills problem?

1 min read

The shortage of engineering skills in the UK is not something which appeared suddenly a couple of months ago. It’s been the subject of a string of reports over the last few years, all of which warned of the growing problem and suggested ways in which to deal with it.

And yet a report published last week by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills – Skills and Performance Challenges in the Advanced Manufacturing Sector – appears to suggest, on first reading, that industry has just found out about the problems.

Here's the top level conclusion from the report: 'Manufacturers must invest in upskilling and developing their existing workforce to ensure they are capable of taking advantage of new technologies'.

How often has that message been relayed in the past?

The report includes some elements that – if they reflect accurately the 'state of the nation' – make you worry about what's happening out there. Here's one. 'Some employers report that offering apprenticeships has enabled them to address skills and performance challenges'. It continues: 'Other employers within advanced manufacturing could assess the benefits of offering apprenticeships'.

Apprenticeships, eh? Surely that was a continuing message from the last two governments?

Another recommendation is that managers in advanced manufacturing should explore ways to 'take ownership over their own continuing professional development and ensure that they have the space and learning opportunities'.

Again, it's an old message; engineers have been encouraged to engage in CPD for at least the last two decades.

The fact that a report can reach the conclusions it does – and make the recommendations it does – should worry us. Nothing in the report tells us anything new, expect perhaps there has been little or no reaction by employers to all those previous reports.