Brain drain risk detected as GE surveys UK universities

Posted on 23 Jun 2011 by The Manufacturer

According to a GE survey, the future competitiveness of the UK is in danger as the nation risks to lose its engineering talent to fast growing countries such as India.

The GE Young Minds Monitor survey gathered the opinion of almost 1,000 lecturers and students from several UK institutions, and found two very different approaches to engineering: 92% of students stated the sector has a positive image compared to other disciplines and a similar number is confident they will find a job in the industry after they have completed their studies, while lecturers warned against a brain drain of talent towards growing economies (only 13% of them think the UK has a growing talent pool to draw on).

The UK generates 20,000 engineering graduates a year, against India’s 650,000. Britain needs to raise this figure to 25,000 a year, if the requirement for 970,000 engineers by 2017 is to be met.

Mark Elborne, president and CEO of GE in the UK, said: “The engineering sector is the lifeblood of the UK economy and we clearly have a very bright, enthusiastic and skilled generation of young people coming through the system. However, our research shows that we need to continue to support this important pillar of growth by continuing to grow our skills base and competitive edge in engineering. There is a new generation of young people choosing engineering as a career – mainly because of the impact they can have on society. These figures demonstrate that both business and government need to continue to support and invest in this new generation, to ensure we nurture and retain such talent.”

The survey found that students, inspired by icons like Dyson, tend to choose engineering because it is interesting and because of its impact on society, rather than for their career ambitions and salary expectations.

One thing the academic community seemed to agree on is that cuts in public spending and rising costs of education threaten the country’s future growth. Students and lecturers also agreed on the fact that UK engineering is not attracting enough women and on the necessity for a more positive attitude of the society as a whole towards the benefits of engineering.

According to lecturers, the United States is the best market for career prospects (with the UK coming fifth, after China, Germany and India. Students think the best career opportunities are in the UK.