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Skills


Sector Focus Engineering talent for the future


be filled and it is looking like an unachievable target to reach. So, what is contributing to this


skill shortage in this area? A number of issues has impacted the sector and have contributed to the parlous state we are facing. As a nation with a proud and extensive engineering history, we will need to tackle them quickly if we are to see things improve. One of the issues is the industry


By David Tomalin Chamber Skills Hub manager


It is hard to understand why there is a shortage of people wishing to access such an exciting industry with such a variety of roles available; where else can you make your mark, permanently, on such things as a new bridge, building or construction event that will shape our environment? A report produced by Engineering


UK states that, at all levels of education, the UK will not be capable of meeting the forecast number of engineers needed in the years up to 2022. It is estimated that 257,000 new vacancies will have to


and government launching development and incentive programmes independently of each other creating a raft of programmes that are fragmented and uncoordinated. For example, some schools benefit from multiple activities and some receive none. How will we ever inspire our young people? At a very basic


level, we are not educating enough people in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) that are essential for any career in engineering. Perhaps they are not seen as popular as


the arts and humanities subjects (a Mondolez International study of 1,500 14-18 year olds found that 44 per cent considered STEM subjects uninteresting.) Schools and colleges must do


more to encourage boys and especially girls to take on STEM subjects and evangelise careers in engineering. Television programmes like “The Big Bang Theory” and presenters such as Brian Cox are welcome additions that help to make STEM more exciting and accessible. Whilst it is hard enough to


attract boys, it is even more difficult to attract girls. To be fair, engineering has always been seen as a male-dominated environment, with a handful of women possessing top jobs within the industry much less entering at lower level. Women are just as capable of performing the


same roles as men.


One of the challenges for schools is to articulate the opportunities, the range of careers and roles available to young women in engineering.


Another issue we face is a lack of


development of existing engineers to achieve their full potential. A study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) suggests that over 40 per cent of engineers will leave their current employer in order to move up the career ladder. The development of engineers does not cease once they have landed their first job, in fact continuous development through on the job training and workshops should be an intrinsic part of their development. There is no doubt that both


construction and engineering industries are two of the biggest employers of foreign, skilled labourers in the UK. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is less temptation for foreign skilled and unskilled workers to come to the UK as their own economies improve. This creates a real paradox – the jobs are clearly available and free for UK citizens to take, but they are not doing so. Clearly, a coordinated campaign


to attract new talent from a young age will pay dividends. The challenge is seeing if our educators, employers and government can work together to improve the situation in the short and long term.


July/August 2016 CHAMBERLINK 49


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