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IET Chief Executive Nigel Fine writes for The Times

IET Chief Executive highlights the engineering skills challenge in The Times.

Nigel Fine writes for The Times

IET Chief Executive Nigel Fine was featured recently in one of the UK’s top broadsheet newspapers, The Times, outlining the skills shortage revealed in the IET Skills & Demand in Industry Survey 2014. Asking where the UK’s budding engineers were, Nigel highlighted that there has never been a better time to become an engineer. “Demand that far outstrips supply, rising salaries and fantastic career prospects are typical characteristics of the engineering profession today,” he wrote. Even so, the IET’s ninth annual survey found that more than half of employers are having difficulties recruiting the staff they need for their businesses to expand, with 59 per cent of companies indicating concerns that a shortage of engineers would be a threat to their businesses.

Improving workplace diversity

Responses also showed that the proportion of engineers who are female has not significantly improved since 2008, currently standing at just six per cent of the workforce. Despite this poor record, the survey suggests that 43 per cent of employers are not taking any specific action to improve workplace diversity. But employers do want to become more proactive; 53 Per cent of respondents believe they should get more involved with schools, colleges and universities to help change the perception of engineering among young people. However, employers also feel that competence needs to improve, with 44 per cent of engineering, IT and technical recruits not meeting employers expected levels of skills. “Demand for engineers in the UK remains high. Research from Engineering UK suggests we need to find 87,000 new engineers each year for the next decade, so now is the time to act,” Nigel says.

Improving recruitment and retention

“Promoting engineering to women is particularly important given how few currently work as engineers, so it’s disappointing to see that so many employers are taking no real action to improve diversity. They need to take urgent steps to improve recruitment and retention of women, for example by promoting flexible and part-time working, together with planned routes of progression that can accommodate career breaks,” he continues.

“There also needs to be deeper engagement between employers and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy. Employers, educators, government and professional institutions like the IET need to focus on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.”