Finance not poaching engineering graduates

31 July 2013
By Edd Gent
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Employment figures for engineering graduates from the 2011/2012 year are slightly below the average

Employment figures for engineering graduates from the 2011/2012 year are slightly below the average

Despite a common myth saying otherwise less than 3 per cent of last year's engineering graduates went into finance

Despite a common myth saying otherwise less than 3 per cent of last year's engineering graduates went into finance

The persistent myth that engineering graduates are poached by the finance industry appears to be fantasy, with less than 3 per cent of last year’s leavers choosing a job in the field.

The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that only 205 out of 7,865 engineering graduates (2.6 per cent) from the 2011/2012 academic year moved into finance related jobs.

HESA’s Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education statistical survey also undermines the message promoted by engineering bodies that the well documented skills shortage makes engineering a degree with solid employment prospects.

Only 70.9 per cent of engineering graduates were found to be in work or combining work with further study, compared to an average of 71.8 per cent across all degrees and behind degrees related to medicine, education, creative arts, architecture and business, among others.

And more than 1 in 10 engineering graduates (10.4 per cent) were unemployed compared to an average figure of 8.8 per cent.

The picture is not much rosier for computer science graduates, as although 73.4 per cent were in work or combining work with further study 14.1 per cent were found to be unemployed.

Paul Davies, head of policy for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said: “The results from HESA place engineers in the middle of recruitment levels, however the recent Skills Demand Survey carried out by the IET reports that employers who are planning to recruit within the engineering, IT and technical sector over the next 12 months will look to have 21 per cent of graduates filling the vacancies.

“However, it has been highlighted by the IET that 42 per cent of employers are reporting that the skills of recruits do not meet their expectations. This could help to explain why the results and perceptions about the levels of employment do not match in this case.

“The IET strongly recommends that more is done to promote cooperation between businesses and education so that the skills of the workforce meet the demand of the industry.

“It is also therefore concerning to note that the HESA results show only 3 per cent of those entering employment from engineering and technology work in the education sector, as it is vital to have experienced STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) teachers to inspire students into engineering and technology in the future.”

Engineering skills body Semta believes that part of the problem is that too many of those entering the workforce apply to the most high profile engineering companies rather than the SMEs who are struggling to fill vacancies.

“The provision of skills has never been more crucial and a career in engineering never more appealing,” said CEO Sarah Sillars. “The pipeline has to deliver the right people, with the right skill set to the right people at the right time.

“Many of the ‘stellar’ organisations' apprenticeship schemes are oversubscribed. We do know that more young people per place apply to become an apprentice at Nissan than for an undergraduate place at Oxford University for instance.

“But many smaller companies in the supply chain still struggle to link up with those that have the skills to do a job.”

The figures show that 46.8 per cent of engineering graduates from 2011/2012 entered either manufacturing or property development, renting, business and research activities – the standard industrial classification covering engineering and technical activities and research and development.

Wholesale and trade repair; transport, storage and communication; construction; and mining and quarrying are the next four most common destinations.

More than 4 in 10 computer science graduates (41.3 per cent) from 2011/2012 entered transport, storage and communication.

Wholesale and trade repair; property development, renting, business and research activities; financial activities (7.3 per cent); education; and manufacturing were the next five most popular destinations.

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