Simon Shaw, Head of Corporate Customer Platforms, SAS Autosystemtechnik Verwaltungs GmbH

Posted on 10 Jun 2013 by The Manufacturer

At the National Manufacturing Debate at Cranfield University (p42) I was intrigued by statistics from the RAEng that the UK needs another 50,000 graduate engineers by 2015 and there are only about 23,000 in the university pipeline.

But this the shortfall in the number of engineers needed by the economy, as calculated by RAEng, assumes that all of those studying will remain in the UK. As Chinese and German companies pay higher salaries and are also looking for engineers, so there is a danger that we could also face a ‘brain drain’ to add to current skills sourcing problems. Anecdotally, three of my former colleagues have moved to China for work on much larger salaries.

In 1991, Siemens in Germany couldn’t get enough engineering graduates. Having seen a documentary on German television about the large number of Irish graduates who could not find jobs, Siemens dispatched a team and recruited the best of them.

The shortage of graduates is an immediate problem today in both the UK and Germany. I work for a German company and my colleagues have already been recruiting in Spain.

The NMD also asked why foreign companies run our UK manufacturing facilities better. [Ex-manufacturing editor of the FT] Peter Marsh said it is because they are focused on a longer term strategy than British companies. Is this the consensus view? While Peter is probably correct I think it is only part of the story. Another factor I believe ways in the balance is the British insistence on creating a ‘level playing field’. Are we, as a nation, too fair and naive commercially?