The proportion of female engineers has actually dropped since last year despite repeated calls to boost their numbers in the profession.
The IET’s 2014 skills survey, which sought responses from 400 engineering firms, showed that the proportion of female engineers has fallen from 7 per cent last year to 6 per cent this year, while the proportion of female technicians also dropped from 4 per cent in 2013 to 3 per cent in 2014.
The figures suggest that there has been no improvement in the number of women engineers since 2008, when they also made up just 6 per cent of the workforce, but despite this poor record the report found that 43 per cent of employers are not taking any specific action to improve workplace diversity.
According to the survey 23 per cent of organisations said that they do nothing at all to improve workforce diversity and a further 20 per cent said they simply hire the best candidate, with only 4 per cent saying they deliberately recruit or promote females.
Only 16 per cent of employers have sent female ambassadors into schools and colleges, while just 16 per cent said they ran specific campaigns to encourage diverse groups.
Nigel Fine, IET chief executive, said: “Promoting engineering to women is particularly important given how few currently work as engineers, so it’s disappointing to see that so many employers are taking no real action to improve diversity.
“They need to take urgent steps to improve recruitment and retention of women, for example by promoting flexible and part time working, together with planned routes of progression that can accommodate career breaks.”
The survey found that 51 per cent of employers said they were recruiting engineering staff this year but they are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit the people they need. The proportion of companies struggling to recruit experienced staff, particularly senior engineers, has increased by 8 per cent since last year.
The report also revealed that many employers were struggling to recruit suitably qualified engineering staff, with the number of companies dissatisfied with the quality of new recruits rising to 44 per cent, from 42 per cent last year and 33 per cent in 2010.
Some 59 per cent of companies said they had concerns that a shortage of engineers would be a threat to their businesses and 53 per cent said they should get more involved with schools, colleges and universities to help change the perception of engineering among young people
“Demand for engineers in the UK remains high. Research from Engineering UK suggests we need to find 87,000 new engineers each year for the next decade, so now is the time to act,” said Fine.
“There also needs to be deeper engagement between employers and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy. Employers, educators, government and professional institutions like the IET need to focus on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.”
While the number of Higher Apprenticeships (Level 4) has remained static since 2013, the number of Intermediate Apprenticeships (Level 2) offered by employers has more than doubled and 52 per cent of organisations said they anticipate employing more apprentices in 4 to 5 years’ time.
A copy of the ‘Engineering and technology skills and demand in industry: 2014 survey’ can be downloaded here.