A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and services company, Towers Watson shows engineers in the UK are not being developed to their full potential.
The report suggests that maximising the productivity of the current workforce has been overlooked, while the industry has instead focused on attracting the next generation to plug the skills gap.
The inaugural UK & Ireland Engineering Workforce Study reveals that employers could do a better job of engaging and retaining their existing talent.
Just under half of engineers think their company succeeds in holding onto talented individuals. While over 40% of engineers plan to leave their current organisation in order to move up the ladder, naming lack of career development and salary as key factors in their decision.
The survey had more than 2,000 responses from engineers working in companies of all sizes across a range of sectors including energy, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and construction.
The report indicates a forgotten generation of engineers, who are significantly less engaged, lie at the heart of this issue. In their thirties and typically with line-management responsibilities, 45% believe there are substantial obstacles to doing their job well, compared to 35% of twenty-year olds.
The engineering community also highlighted a frustration with the current pace of innovation in the UK, with only a third saying their company does a good job in moving from ideas to implementation.
Alastair Barr, head of commercial development at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “A large segment of the population saying we are slow to market with creative ideas suggests there is something in the present culture of engineering companies that is holding them back from delivering their full potential.
“This, in addition to the forgotten generation of engineers, would suggest there is an opportunity to improve our talent management. I think we need to give serious thought as an industry to how we equip people with not only the core engineering skills required in today’s economy but also the people skills that allows us to drive up productivity as a whole.”
The research shows that engineers think managerial, leadership and interpersonal skills will become increasingly important to achieving professional success in the future. A grasp of sustainability issues, along with advanced IT and foreign-language skills, were also cited as key attributes for engineers who want to get to the top.