Addressing the skills shortage

28 June 2013
IET Communications team
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David Willetts MP speaks at the IET's Skills Shortage Summit

UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP speaks at the IET's Skills Shortage Summit.

IET event brings together industry, academia, government and the media to discuss the engineering skills gap.

Earlier this week, the IET Skills Shortage Summit saw representatives of industry, academia, government and the media come together to discuss the engineering skills gap.

Held on 26 June at IET London: Savoy Place, the event was attended by IET Corporate and Academic Partners, UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP, and ITV News business editor Laura Kuenssberg.

Speakers included Professor David Howard from the University of York, and Juergen Maier from Siemens Industry UK.


Skills report

The summit saw the launch of the IET’s eighth annual Engineering and Technology: Skills & Demand in Industry report.

The report showed that, despite confidence in being able to find the right staff falling for the second year in a row, just 20 per cent of employers said that they plan to retrain existing staff.

Almost a quarter of companies said they are planning no actions to recruit the staff they need and, while some employers seem to recognise the need to engage with the education system, a third of those who don’t said it was because they see no benefit in doing so.


Employer engagement

“Our skills survey shows that many of the UK’s engineering employers are suffering from engineering skills gaps, shortages and an ageing workforce, and this will only get worse in the future when huge numbers of engineers and technicians are forecast to be needed for new infrastructure and energy projects,” IET president Professor Andy Hopper said.

“There are some very good examples of companies getting involved in local schools and working with colleges, but our report 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.

“You wouldn’t leave it to chance to provide the materials, finance or machinery that you need. Why hope someone else will supply your most important asset that is your people?”


Important discussion

Attendees also heard from IET chief executive Nigel Fine, who outlined initiatives the Institution has put in place to boost the number of young people going into engineering, including a host of scholarships and grants. Nigel also outlined the importance of industry and academia doing their part.

“It’s really important the group of people here today get an opportunity to discuss some of the findings in this report and see what other things we can all do, because it is a challenging situation out there; but the solution is in our hands,” he said.


Inspiring the next generation

The skills report also showed that, while 50 per cent of the 400 companies surveyed were recruiting, many struggle to get the staff they need, with 42 per cent finding that the skill levels of recent recruits did not meet expectations.

When asked what should be done about resolving this skills shortage the most commonly cited solution (33 per cent) was to improve the image and profile of engineering in schools.

“An awful lot of young people are slipping through the net who could be excellent engineers and technicians, and those are the ones we need to be catching,” said Gareth James, the IET’s head of education.


Media attention

On the day, ITV News' Laura Kuenssberg interviewed event speaker Juergen Maier on skills issues affecting industry.

The findings of the IET’s latest skills survey were also reported in the Financial Times, Daily Express and the Huffington Post UK.


More information

The IET’s eighth annual Engineering and Technology: Skills & Demand in Industry report is based on telephone interviews with 400 employers of engineering and IT staff in the UK.

If you would like to know more about this year’s report, please email policy@theiet.org.