Policy point: IET challenges engineering employers

Are you doing enough? Dr Tony Whitehead, IET director of policy challenges engineering employers on their existing approach to skills.

There is much stated, claimed and imagined about the condition of education and skills in the UK. Endless reports, projections and campaigns are produced on the matter.

Evidence suggests that the UK is suffering from engineering skills shortages and that these will get worse as the workforce continues to age and huge additional engineering resources are needed for new infrastructure and energy projects.

The focus often falls on the education system and the pipeline of recruitment, from primary to postgraduate and apprentice. We have heard the questions before: how do you encourage more young people to take an interest in science and technology? Why do most girls loose interest in engineering and technology in secondary school?

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is due to publish its annual skills survey at the end of June, and I’m sure that it will again cover all of the above.

“The IET survey indicates a large minority of companies who do nothing [on skills and education]”

So what needs to change and who needs to do it? There are certainly many actions that could and are being taken in schools, and in further and higher education, to improve careers advice. The IET and the engineering institutions are playing their role in promoting the profession to students, parents and the government. But are employers doing their bit?

There are undoubtedly some very good examples of manufacturing companies getting involved in local schools and working with their local colleges.

But the IET survey also indicates a large minority of companies who do nothing.

They know they will have difficulty recruiting the engineers they need but expect someone else will sort it out for them. Would they do the same for the materials, finance and machinery they need?

There is an old adage that the only difference between you and your competitor is the people you employ. Are you doing enough now to make sure that you will have the engineers and technicians your company will need in the future?