According to a new survey, less than half of engineering recruits have the skills needed to work in the industry. This is leading to an internal skills gap that companies are struggling to fill. While new graduates might be entering the workforce every year, many of them do not have the skills that are currently in demand by most employers.
According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), around 71% of those surveyed said that it is down to a gap in engineering or technical skills. And nearly all of those surveyed (96%) reported that this skills gap is impacting their business.
Recruitment was identified as the most common cause of friction, with the majority of companies reporting that recruitment is taking much longer than in previous years. While candidates might have the skills they need on paper, on further reflection it seems that they don’t have the technical and engineering skills needed to fill roles.
Around 45% of those companies surveyed do not offer additional training for graduates and apprentices. As a result, 25% reported that they simply do not hire graduates and apprentices as a result.
Many are pointing at a lack of diversity in the recruitment process as the cause of the skills shortage. Only a third of businesses have been taking steps to improve the diversity of their workforce across gender or ethnicity. By limiting the search in this way, employers are chasing a smaller group of candidates than is necessary.
When asked what the government could do to improve this skills shortage, an overwhelming 54% confirmed that there needs to be more funding for apprenticeships. This is a viable option into the sector for school-leaver age youngsters who are keen to learn on the job.
Others are pointing to a lack of awareness of opportunities, which is leading to fewer people choosing careers in STEM. Without interest from a young age, the sector will never see the influx of workers that it so desperately needs. 49% pointed to a lack of careers advice in schools and colleges as a cause for the shortage.
And around 51% of employers pointed to a need for more funding to help re-skill workers in priority areas. The pandemic may have boosted the number of people available to work, but if they don’t have the right skills, this will never be helpful.
And finally, Brexit could also be a key factor in the skills shortage. The UK lost a large number of skilled EU workers, and changing rules make it harder for employers to recruit from overseas, particularly for entry-level roles.
Despite the bleak picture painted by this report, firms remain hopeful that these issues will be short-lived. Working with a specialist engineering recruitment agency could be all that is needed to help fill the skills gap.
According to the report, 79% are confident about the economic prospects for their firm. And we’ve also seen a shift in focus over the past 12 months. While 44% reported prioritising cutting costs 12 months ago, the focus is now on improving profitability and productivity.
Engineering is going to be an important sector for economic growth over the next decade, and it is hoped that the government will recognise the need for more investment in training. However, the challenge of achieving net-zero by 2050 could reveal further skills shortages.