Student work experience could solve skills gap

Posted on 20 Sep 2016 by Jonny Williamson

A sense of pessimism around the impact of Brexit on the UK’s engineering sector, particularly relating industry’s skills gap, has been highlighted, in a new report published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) today.

According to the report – 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report, 62% of engineering employers say graduates don’t have the right skills for today’s workplace, while 68% are concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change.

Blue Cartography Of European Union with Business Silhouettes
40% of those surveyed believe that their recruitment will be negatively impacted over the coming five years now that Britain is to leave the EU.

When asked about the impact of Brexit on their recruitment plans, 40% of those surveyed believe that their recruitment will be negatively impacted over the coming four to five years now that Britain is to leave the EU.

To address these growing concerns over a skills gap in the engineering workforce, particularly among graduates and school leavers, 91% of companies agreed that to improve the supply of engineers and technicians, more employers need to provide work experience for those in education or training.

In response, the IET is launching a new campaign – Engineering Work Experience for All – to champion the need for more employers and universities to collaborate to offer quality work experience to engineering students.

The campaign is designed to rally employers, universities, Government and students to make a range of different, quality work experience opportunities more widespread.

Now in its eleventh year, the IET’s skills report highlighted that while there is some optimism from employers about being able to recruit the engineers they need, concerns about skills gaps and diversity issues, the role of education, and a lack of experienced engineering staff all come under the spotlight.

Key findings include:

Education, employment and skills gap

  • 52% of employers are currently seeking new engineering and technology recruits
  • 57% are currently, or have recently, experienced problems recruiting senior engineers with 5-10 years’ experience
  • 50% find that a typical new engineering and technology recruit does not meet their reasonable expectations

Engineering work experience

  • 76% of employers agree that compelling all engineering and technology companies to provide work experience would improve the pool of engineering talent
  • 53% don’t know how the apprentice levy can benefit their organisation

Diversity and inclusion

  • 9% of the UK engineering and technology workforce are female
  • 63% of businesses don’t have gender diversity initiatives in place (increased from 57% in 2015)
  • 73% don’t have LGBT or ethnic diversity initiatives in place
  • 40% of employers agree that their organisation could do more to recruit people from diverse backgrounds

Naomi Climer, president, the IET.
Naomi Climer, president, the IET.

IET president, Naomi Climer explained: “Demand for engineers is high but the report reveals deeper concern than ever around the skills and experience of our future workforce.

“As we are facing an engineering shortfall in the next decade and some uncertainty around skills following Brexit, it is more important than ever that we develop the next generation of ‘home grown’ engineering and technology talent.

“One of the biggest challenges appears to be recruiting candidates with the right practical skills, which is why the IET is launching a new campaign to highlight the benefits of employers offering quality work experience to engineering students. Employers and educators must continue to strengthen their working relationships to ensure that the work experience they offer is designed with the skills gaps in mind.

“We also want to draw attention to the importance of continuing professional development in a world where technology is changing fast – and of having clear plans to create a more diverse workforce.”