Think tank says one in five students must become an engineer
18 March 2013
One in five students will need to become an engineer if the UK has any chance of addressing severe skills shortages and rebalancing the economy towards advanced manufacturing, new research has warned.
A report by the Social Market Foundation warns that the Government’s aim to divert the economy away from financial services is “inconceivable” due to the shortage of home-grown graduates in. The think tank calculates the industry is already 40,000 short of the number of so-called STEM graduates it needs each year, a problem which will only get worse as the engineering workforce ages and retires.
The warning comes as manufacturing body the EEF on Monday released the first report into women’s representation in the industry, where it calls for more to be done to increase the size of the talent pool.
“There is no getting away from the fact that women are substantially under-represented in manufacturing at a time when industry needs to be tapping into every potential talent pool to access the skills it needs,” said EEF chief Terry Scuoler. “We need a huge national effort to make this happen and government, education, and industry itself all have a major role to play.”
An earlier report by Engineering UK concluded the country has the lowest proportion of female engineers in the EU.
Nida Broughton, senior economist at the Social Market Foundation, warned that Government’s plans to reduce immigration – which will cut the number of highly skilled workers allowed into the UK – will compound problems further.
“Our analysis shows that the gulf between skills and jobs makes these aims incompatible in the short-term,” she said. “We’re heading for a human capital crunch unless we can rapidly increase the numbers of young people taking science-related subjects at school”.
The think tank says that tackling underperformance at GCSE level among boys and low A-level science take-up among girls could result in thousands more young people studying the subjects. It calculates that specific measures to encourage take-up could result in around 12,000 more pupils studying science at A-level, and roughly 7,000 more STEM graduates.
The Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts that the engineering profession needs 104,000 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates a year between now and 2020, but there are only 82,000 UK-domiciled STEM graduates a year. Of those, just 64,000 end up going into engineering, meaning 40,000 extra graduates are needed annually.