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FM Careers – The Engineering Skills Shortage

FM Careers – The Engineering Skills Shortage
19 August 2021

As UK employers continue to struggle to fill engineering vacancies, what are the challenges in this area?


School-Leavers Not Choosing Engineering


According to the Engineering Brand Monitor 2019,  engineering consistently lagged behind other STEM subjects with respect to young people’s knowledge of what those working in the industry do and the extent to which they perceive engineering positively and believe it to be a desirable career. 

But why is this?


  • Narrow stereotypes of the profession – Nearly a third of young people report engineering as an undesirable career, see it as ‘too complicated/difficult’ or ‘boring or dull’, and one-fifth view it as ‘too technical’ or ‘dirty, greasy or messy’
  • Poor knowledge of engineering – this extends to the general public, the majority of whom see engineers as working in traditional industries such as construction, oil and gas, and manufacturing, with far fewer aware of its role in other sectors such as transport or research and development. 
  • Clear gender differences – Girls are less likely than boys to know about engineering, to view it positively, to consider a career in the industry or know what to do next in order to become an engineer. They are also less likely to believe they could become an engineer if they wanted to. 


Actuate UK, who represents professional bodies such as BESA and CIBSE, is promoting engineering as a sector that offers the chance to tackle the climate crisis and provide better living and working conditions for their communities.

In 2020, Actuate UK Members ECA & BESA partnered with TESP, the Renewable Energy Association, Solar Energy UK  and others to produce the Skills4Climate industry report, examining ways to ensure the electrotechnical sector has the required skills base to deliver Net Zero by 2050.

The report found that 88 per cent of engineering services employers support a green recovery, yet a quarter (25 per cent) said they would not be able to find competent workers to meet an increase in demand for net-zero technologies. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) said that poor careers advice for young people was the main barrier to new entrants to the industry.


An Ageing Workforce and Lack of Graduates


In 2018, 19.5 per cent of engineers working in the UK were due to retire by 2026.

Additionally, there’s been a lack of engineering graduates over the past 10 to 15 years, with approximately 182,000 additional engineer graduates needed per year until 2022.




The Demand of Emerging Technologies


Technological advancements, driven by the climate emergency and consumer demand, have all driven changes in the engineering sector that require new skills.

John Kitchingman, MD, Euronorth, Dassault Systèmes told The Engineer about how cloud computing is a much-requested technology skill for 2021 highlighting smart technology as a driver:

“There has been a massive increase in demand for smart products – from smart cars to the likes of Google Home and Alexa. These new smart products need to be consistently updated and upgraded throughout their life cycle. While this makes each product more sustainable by default, it requires a different approach to innovation, product design and software engineering. Engineers can now use the likes of virtual twin technology to simulate these innovations, which means engineers need the skills to work cohesively with new software. With tools as such growing in uptake, this skillset is now imperative to the role.”

Picture: a photograph of two people looking at a technical drawing

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 19 August 2021


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