How can we encourage people into the sector that contributes £131bn to the UK economy?

Did you know that over 90% of smartphones contain electronics designed in Britain? The UK's electrical industry is perhaps more prevalent in your life than you might think. However, less and less people are training as electrical engineers. How can this be solved?

According to Engineering UK, the electronic and electrical engineering sector contributes £131bn to the UK economy and employs over 1.5 million people.

Some of the top technology trends all depend on electronics: Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, wearable technologies and renewables.

The electronics industry by numbers

Over 90% of smartphones contain electronics designed in the UK. Image courtesy of TM

  • £46,567 is the mean full-time salary for electronic engineers in the UK
  • The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reports that the electronics industry is comprised of 53,265 companies employing 926,575 people in the UK at the end of 2017
  • The electronics industry contributes 6% to Britain’s GDP
  • 14 of the world’s leading 20 semiconductor companies have a design and/or manufacturing site in the UK
  • 66% of businesses in the electronics sector are currently recruiting engineering and technology staff

The government’s Industrial Strategy even emphasises the importance of integrating these technological trends and other 4IR tech such as AI, robotics and virtual reality in boosting productivity and earning power throughout the UK.

However, a shortage of electronics engineers in Britain will limit the ability to develop these next-generation technologies and creative solutions demanded by our society. 

As similar in many other industries, too few young people are choosing to study in the field. Only 3,330 UK students enrolled on degrees in electronic and electrical engineering last year; according to UCAS, this is around half the number enrolling on mechanical engineering degrees.

Many of top technology trends all depend on electronics - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Many of top technology trends all depend on electronics – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

With a fractured landscape across the sector and an ageing workforce, the skills shortage could likely worsen post-Brexit.

This will prove detrimental to the electronics industry as a whole in the UK, adversely affecting Britain’s economic prosperity.

Beginning to solve the issue?

The UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) is an educational charity established in 2010 to promote skills in electronics for the benefit of the UK and society.

Its principal mission is to encourage more young people to study electronics and to pursue careers in the sector.

They believe employers, universities, schools and other stakeholders will be the key to improving the uptake of graduate degrees and apprenticeships in electrical engineering.

Though, recent research also revealed the number of UK apprentices viewing their apprenticeships as a genuine career path has increased by almost 70%, according to extensive findings from over 15,000 individuals.

The report collected by RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk and analysed by Crescendo Consulting, showed that young people regard their apprenticeships highly. The problem is encouraging young people onto apprenticeship courses, not the concern they might leave or not value the qualification.

UKESF’s campaign #TurnOnToElectronics which launched yesterday, aims for the organisation to work collaboratively with these groups of people to tackle the skills shortage.

This also aligns with the government’s 2018 campaign, ‘The Year of Engineering’, which looks to tackle the engineering skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the engineering profession.

UKESF’s goal is to ensure more school children are aware of electronics. To show these children, their parents and teachers that there are exciting and worthwhile careers available as designers and engineers in the electronics sector.

The organisation want to provide the support for young people to develop their interest in electronics and engineering, through to helping them study at university and/or on apprenticeship programmes, and then supporting them in their career afterward.

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