Employers predict schools won’t keep up with tech change

Demand for engineers continues to rise, but more than half (53%) of employers are struggling to recruit suitably skilled staff, according to the 2015 Skills & Demand in Industry report.

Published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the report reveals that 61% of employers are least satisfied with skills among graduates – and that two-thirds are concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change.

Other findings include:

  • 69% of employers recruiting graduates report a lack of available graduates
  • 68% are having most difficulty recruiting senior engineers with five to ten years’ experience
  • 75% do not have LGBT/ ethnic diversity initiatives in place
  • 53% feel that Government initiatives for recruiting apprentices are not straightforward
  • 94% recognise they have a responsibility to support employee transition to the workplace 

Kevin Payne, sponsor, electrical engineering graduate training – London Underground commented: “Primary and secondary education, and our broader culture, do not place a strong emphasis on practical engineering questions, and my perception is that 90%+ of teachers have only the flimsiest grasp of what engineering really is.”

The report also highlights that while more than half (53%) of employers say they are recruiting engineering staff this year, 64% claim a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business.

Director at South Midlands Communications, a specialist in radio, broadcast and communications products, Sheila Brown, said: “A whole generation has focused too much on the service industry instead of manufacturing, and now productivity, which has led to a gap that the next generation of school leavers need to fill.”

This is the tenth year that the IET has published its skills report and the role of education comes under the spotlight, together with ongoing diversity issues in engineering and a lack of both available graduates and more experienced engineering staff.

Still gathering contrasting opinions is the role of women in engineering.

The IET claims they account for only 9% of the UK engineering workforce, and yet 57% of employers do not have gender diversity initiatives in place.

IET chief executive, Nigel Fine added: “Demand for engineers in the UK remains high, with supply unable to keep pace – and employers continuing to highlight skills shortages as a major concern.”

“Stronger and deeper collaboration between employers and academic institutions is needed to agree practical steps to ensure that young people are suitably prepared both academically and practically before they start work. Supporting and encouraging teachers and academics to spend time in industry – and employers to visit schools, colleges and universities – would also be hugely beneficial,” he added.