Engineering students failed by ‘sausage machine’ UK education system

Engineering companies are struggling with a lack of properly qualified students emerging from the UK’s educational institutions, according to a panel discussion regarding the IET’s latest skills survey.

The eleventh annual ‘Engineering and Technology Skills and Demand in Industry report’ found that while demand for qualified engineers is increasing in the UK, many candidates lack sufficient work experience.

“There is a sense in this country that the education system is a treadmill or a sausage machine where you’re ready at the other end, but 53 per cent of employers thought that the job wasn’t done so there’s a big gap there,” said Nigel Titchener-Hooker, dean of engineering sciences at UCL, while speaking at an IET seminar regarding the new report.

At the event, companies were urged to make engineering roles more attractive to students who are often put off by their perception of what such jobs entail.

“The challenge for the industry is to make those [engineering] jobs and careers satisfying,” Titchener-Hooker added.

Naomi Climer, outgoing president of the IET, also spoke at the seminar. “Our surveys predict a shortfall in engineers in this country and worldwide over the next few decades and this is likely to drive salaries up,” she said.

She also addressed the significant gender gap in the engineering sector after having previously called for government quotas to boost the number of women taking up roles in the sector if the imbalance was not addressed by companies voluntarily. 

“We were shocked to find that more than 50 per cent of teachers in a survey last year regard engineering as a boy’s career and actually parents are the same.

“Teachers seem to be so overloaded that it almost feels cruel to ask them to take this on and understand engineering, and yet they need to. This country is going to be very short of engineers if we don’t get the influencers influencing them.

“I agree that engineering has a branding issue and we need government to do their bit but actually one of things people could do better is telling people how world changing engineering is.”

Amanda Cooper, UK head of supply chain interfaces with Thales, agreed that education was essential for increasing the number of students who entered the engineering sector. “If you educate one teacher then you educate thousands of children and those are the people we really need to get to,” she said.

The survey, which came out earlier today, reveals a number of concerning statistics regarding the UK’s engineering sector. It found 57 per cent of employers are currently, or have recently, experienced problems recruiting senior engineers with 5-10 years’ experience. 

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