‘Changing Perceptions’ examines engineering skills gap

Posted on 14 Apr 2014 by The Manufacturer

A new study commissioned by the ERA Foundation to shed light on the UK’s engineering shortage has identified a 36,000 annual shortfall as the industry's biggest challenge.

Changing Perceptions: Opening people’s eyes to engineering, released by the group in association with communications firm Luther Pendragon, aims to advise on factors surrounding the skills shortfall.

At the unveiling of the report at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, the ERA Foundation said it was also launched with the intention of raising the profile of the profession while identifying how to attract the “brightest and the best” talent into engineering careers.

Sir John Parker, who spoke of the "integrated approach" needed towards skills at the report unveiling.
Sir John Parker spoke of the “integrated approach” needed towards skills at the report unveiling.

It also identifies the barriers existing towards acquiring young talent, which includes ingrained misconceptions surrounding the profession, early specialisation and political, social, educational and financial neglect.

Other reasons include the lack of engineering role models and the negativity surrounding the broadness of the term engineer as factors for young people shying away from careers.

Richard Brook, chairman of the ERA Foundation, says that while recognition of the importance of engineering and manufacturing as central components of the UK economy have been recognised, obstacles need addressing in order to maximise their potential.

Speaking in the report’s foreword, Mr Brook says: “The contribution of the engineering sector to the future strength and prosperity of the UK has accordingly been recognised to be crucial.

“The health of this sector has, however, raised long-standing concern, particularly in respect to attaining the required levels of recruitment and to the establishment of mutually beneficial relations with the wider public and society.

“As with all such cultural issues, progress involves inevitable attention to complex, multi-variant, and frequently contentious questions.”

The report also includes a range of suggested solutions, which include improving engineering companies’ media engagement, a unification of industry bodies to provide a consistent message, and widening the reach of communication strategies.

The report unveiling featured a collection of speeches, including an address from businessman Sir John Parker, who spoke of the need for an “integrated approach” towards skills from industry across the UK.

This was followed by an audience discussion around the issues documented behind the skills shortage, and included exchanges on government policy, attracting more women engineers and changing the overall image of the profession.

A video profiling the research of biomedical engineer Dr Eleanor Stride, who has worked to use micro bubbles in the delivery of chemotherapy drugs, was also shown as an example of the vital impact the profession can have on society.