Student work experience is solution to engineering skills gap, say employers

New report reveals pessimism around impact of Brexit on engineering sector according to the 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

62% of engineering employers say graduates don’t have the right skills for today’s workplace, while 68% are concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change, according to the 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report, published by the IET.

When asked about the impact of Brexit on their recruitment plans 40% of those surveyed believe that their recruitment will be negatively impacted over the next four to five years now that Britain is to leave the EU. 

To address these growing concerns over skills gaps in the engineering workforce, particularly among graduates and school leavers, 91% of companies agreed that to improve the supply of engineers and technicians, more employers need to provide work experience for those in education or training.   

In response, the IET is launching a new campaign: ‘Engineering Work Experience for All’ to champion the need for more employers and universities to collaborate to offer quality work experience to engineering students. The campaign is designed to rally employers, universities, Government and students to make a range of different, quality work experience opportunities more widespread. 

This is the eleventh year that the IET has published its skills report, based on extended telephone interviews with over 400 engineering employers across the UK. While there is some optimism from employers about being able to recruit the engineers they need, concerns about skills gaps and diversity issues, the role of education, and a lack of experienced engineering staff all come under the spotlight. Findings include: 

Education, employment and skills gaps

  • 52% of employers are currently seeking new engineering and technology recruits
  • 57% are currently, or have recently, experienced problems recruiting senior engineers with 5-10 years’ experience
  • 50% find that a typical new engineering and technology recruit does not meet their reasonable expectations 

Engineering work experience

  • 76% of employers agree that compelling all engineering and technology companies to provide work experience would improve the pool of engineering talent
  • 53% don’t know how the apprentice levy can benefit their organisation


Diversity and inclusion

  • 9% of the UK engineering and technology workforce are female
  • 63% of businesses don’t have gender diversity initiatives in place (increased from 57% in 2015)
  • 73% don’t have LGBT or ethnic diversity initiatives in place
  • 40% of employers agree that their organisation could do more to recruit people from diverse backgrounds
     

Naomi Climer, IET President, said: “Demand for engineers is high but the report reveals deeper concern than ever around the skills and experience of our future workforce.

“As we are facing an engineering shortfall in the next decade and some uncertainty around skills following Brexit, it is more important than ever that we develop the next generation of ‘home grown’ engineering and technology talent. 

Huw Williams, Production Engineering Director at SPTS Technologies says:

“There is certainly more that could be done between businesses and schools to ensure young people are work-ready. You have to look at the right solution for the right company. I think the combination of the apprenticeships scheme and university scheme we participate in (Network75) has been very beneficial for the company. You can’t expect people straight out of education to be ready for the workplace, particularly when you bring in someone at the age of 15/16. You could mandate work experience but that would only work if it is a big enough firm – not every small business in in the position to give the right type of experience.”

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