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IET survey examines the skills needed to reach UK Government’s net-zero target and what is needed for a green recovery, post-pandemic

The research commissioned by the IET explores:

  • Engineering employers’ perceptions on climate change and the net-zero challenge.
  • How organisations are lowering their environmental impact, the skills needed to deliver sustainability strategies, and the barriers they face.
  • Introducing technological change to lower environmental impact and upskilling to deliver change.
  • The impacts of COVID-19 on engineering employees and changing business priorities.
  • Organisations’ responses and attitudes towards the continued skills shortages.
  • The main technical skills job applicants lack and engineering employers’ perceptions of new entrants.

The survey uncovers that only half (53%) of UK engineering firms think net-zero by 2050 is achievable for them. When considering who should be accountable for tackling climate change, businesses think the majority of responsibility lies with national Government (25%), followed by business and industry (20%). Over half (56%) are doubtful that achieving net-zero in the UK by 2050 is possible.

When addressing skills, one in two engineering firms states they are currently experiencing skills gaps (46%), with most choosing to upskill/retrain existing employees (47%) or hire new employees with those skills (44%). It’s less common for them to recruit apprentices/graduates and provide training, although this is still an action taken by roughly a third (32%).

The economic impact of Covid-19 has however seen a shift in priorities. Twelve months ago, increasing profitability was the top priority for businesses (50%). This has been replaced by the wellbeing of their staff (68%) and dealing with economic changes/uncertainty (68%). Recruiting staff with new skills is currently the lowest priority for engineering employers (35%, compared to 38% 12 months ago) and this continues to be the case in their expectations for one year from now (35%), however, employers will need to start addressing this in order to rebuild the economy post-Covid.

On hiring new recruits, 43% of engineering employers agree that university graduates don’t have the necessary skills needed to work in their industry.  However, there are also concerns over the apprentices that enter the engineering industry. Over a third (38%) of employers agree that apprentices don’t understand the realities of work in their industry and that they don’t have the necessary technical skills (34%).

Stephanie Baxter, IET Skills and Innovation Lead said: “To deliver on the UK’s net-zero challenge, the standout issue with recruitment is a lack of people with the right specialist skills or knowledge and this poses a huge risk to advancing our green recovery.

“This is coupled with a huge change in business priorities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst only 7% of businesses with a green recovery strategy say they have the right skills needed to fulfil it, recruitment overall at this time is their lowest priority. We now need to consider the economic impact this will have on furthering the UK’s sustainability agenda and our collective ability to achieve net-zero targets by 2050.”

By improving the understanding of the net-zero challenge we face, we will be able to create work-ready new recruits that understand the importance of sustainability and the issues around it.

To learn the key facts, themes, recommendations, and skills requirements for delivering the UK Government’s net-zero target, visit and be a part of the discussion today.