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UK industry faces engineering workforce shortfall

Author : Alan Franck, Editor, Hazardex

02 February 2018

A report into the UK engineering labour market published by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) reveals the challenges facing the industry’s workforce now and in the future, including the likely retirement of one in five UK engineers by 2026.

Employer feedback suggests that newly-qualified engineers are not receiving the right education for today’s economy, with companies citing the content of STEM qualifications, and a lack of workplace experience and soft skills, such as interpersonal communication, among the reasons why some engineering graduates struggle to find jobs in spite of demand.

Key findings:
• Engineers in the workforce: In 2016, there were just under 465,000 engineers employed in the UK, a 9% increase since 2009.
• Women in engineering: Almost 9% of engineers in the UK are women (2016), an increase from 5% in 2009.
• Earnings of engineers: In 2016, the average engineer’s income exceeded £42,000, 50% higher than the average earnings in the UK. Engineering graduates earned £5,000 more than the average salary for graduates.
• Engineers in Higher Education: In 2015/16, 38.5% engineering graduates went into engineering professions, the lowest figure since 2012.
• Apprenticeships in Engineering: In 2013/14 over 90% of engineering apprentices sustained employment, compared to an average of 75% for all apprentices.
• Engineering retirements: By 2026, more than 91,000 engineers, or nearly 20% of the workforce, will have retired or be close to retiring. Additionally, 29,000 engineering technicians, or 18% of the technician workforce, will have retired or be close to retiring by 2026.

Despite some encouraging trends such as the overall increase in engineering employment, government and employers will have to work hard to ensure sufficient high quality candidates are educated, trained and have the requisite skills for employment in the mid-2020s. 

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