Navigating the UK's engineering skills gap

The latest labour market figures were released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) at the beginning of November 2018. Following the publication, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chamber of Commerce commented:
"There is clear evidence of a deep-rooted skills gap across the UK which is constraining business growth."

If you work in an industry that involves science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM), it's likely you are acutely aware of the current skills gap in our economy. For many, the issue has become a crisis.

The economic implications

According to research by STEM Learning, the lack of graduates entering the workplace with the relevant skills costs the UK economy £1.5 billion a year. In particular, the engineering sector is facing an annual shortfall of up to 59,000 graduates. Which means every year companies are struggling to recruit the right people to fulfil jobs that are essential to their business development, and spend vast amounts of money trying to work around this issue.

 

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Encouraging young people to consider STEM-related jobs is essential if we're to change the future. Promoting the benefits of a career in science, technology or other vocational subjects will help to plug the skills gap. However, this needs to start early in the education system along with the opportunity to take courses that match the real needs of employers.

Inspiring young people

Reacting to the crisis, the government has undertaken a number of initiatives to redress the balance, for example, 2018 has been named The Year of Engineering. This campaign aims to celebrate the subject and offer practical solutions designed to inspire the next generation of engineers. It is part of the wider Industrial Strategy to boost productivity by working closely with industry to create 'good jobs'.

The role of industry

Closing the gap also relies on respective industries offering opportunities to train and upskill its workforce. A survey by The Engineer found that 72% of companies are worried about the future availability of skilled staff, however only 54% currently train apprentices. The government's reform of the system through its apprenticeship levy has received mixed reviews, with some leading commentators suggesting it is hindering, rather than encouraging, provision.

Young people are also increasingly turning away from jobs they consider difficult, dirty, dangerous or dull, which suggests a lack of understanding regarding the connection between skilled tradespeople and the country's economic success. In fact, engineering can be an incredibly rewarding career, with endless options for development and promotion.

Aaron Guidice, our Commercial Director, comments: "Finding ways to overcome the chronic skills shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing most organisations today. We believe it starts by talking to school children and young adults about the fantastic opportunities and incentives available to those who choose a career in STEM subjects.

"Here at Sowga, we've found the best way to navigate this situation is to ensure we retain all of our highly skilled employees and continue to train our workforce. Our retention programme focuses on recognition and reward schemes to incentivise staff, apprenticeships to upskill employees, and skills-specific training courses for management or industry knowledge. As a result, we hold on to our expert workforce and that, in turn, benefits the bottom line."

Whether you're an experienced professional or future apprentice, we're always looking out for new members to join our team. Visit our Careers page for more information on the latest job opportunities or give us a call to discuss. 

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