Engineering Work Experience for All

Student work experience is a solution to engineering skills gap, say employers.

Stock image of a man working on equipment

According to the IET 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report, 62 per cent of engineering employers say graduates don’t have the right skills for today’s workplace, while 68 per cent are concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change. To address these growing concerns over skills gaps in the engineering workforce, particularly among graduates and school leavers, 91 per cent of companies agreed that more employers need to provide work experience for those in education or training.

The campaign

In response to these statistics, the IET has launched a campaign entitled ‘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.

Challenges and concerns

This is the eleventh year that the IET has published its skills report, based on extended telephone interviews with over 400 engineering employers across the UK. 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. “Demand for engineers is high but the report reveals deeper concern than ever around the skills and experience of our future workforce,” highlights IET Past President Naomi Climer. “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 launched this 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.”

What the businesses are going to do about it

Many employers have already come on board in support of the campaign, including Proserv, SPTS Technologies and Amec Foster Wheeler. “There is certainly more that could be done between businesses and schools to ensure young people are work-ready,” notes Huw Williams, Production Engineering Director at SPTS Technologies.

“Education institutions should seek more help from business,” continues Andy Taylor, Chief Engineer – Mechanical at Amec Foster Wheeler. “Companies should get people like me to go into colleges and lecture on the application of what they are learning and the practical stuff which makes up the job. This will help narrow the gap between practice and theory.”

“We would be supportive of a mandatory requirement as there are a multitude of engineering companies who do not support these initiatives but have the clout to financially attract key engineers once they have been trained/ gained experience elsewhere,” adds Lindsay MacDonald, Senior Manager for Engineering and Technology at Proserv.

Key IET 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry statistics

Education, employment and skills gaps

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

Engineering work experience

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

Diversity and inclusion

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

The IET would like to engage with more employers on the issue of work experience. To get involved please visit the Engineering Work Experience for All campaign website at www.theiet.org/work-experience.