Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET)


December 16, 2021

Less than half of new engineering hires have the technical or soft skills needed to work in the industry, a new Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) skills survey reveals, raising concerns that “the crisis skills in the UK will continue to grow unless government and industry take action ‘.

The impact of missing skills means that 45% of companies that see a skills shortage among young people offer additional training to apprentices / graduates who are new to the industry, while a quarter simply recruit fewer apprentices and graduates. graduates (25%). Two-thirds (71%) of the UK engineering workforce who experience internal skills gaps say it is due to lack of engineering or technical skills.

Almost all (96%) engineering employers who identified a skills shortage among general applicants say that this skills shortage has an impact on their business in one way or another. The most common impacts of a skills shortage among applicants are around the recruitment path – either causing recruitment difficulties (50%) or lengthening recruitment times (47%).

A lack of recruiting from a diverse talent pool may also fuel the problem, with only a third of companies taking action to improve the diversity of their workforce by gender (33%) or origin. ethnic (30%).

When asked what support businesses need from government to improve their skills nationwide, more funding for apprenticeships came out on top (54%), with more support for training or get retraining in priority areas (51%) and better career advice and guidance in schools and colleges (49%) following online.

Simon Edwards, Director of Governance and External Engagement at the IET, said: “Over the past 12 months, the UK has continued to experience economic uncertainty, supported by Brexit and the Covid pandemic -19. This, coupled with the drive to achieve the UK’s net zero targets and the emergence of new roles in engineering companies with a shift in the skill set required, means that we are seeing a gap of sustainable skills that will continue to grow unless government and industry take action.

“Workers are in high demand, but we don’t have readily available recruits with the right skills to fill the job market – which we have been reporting through the Skills Survey for 15 years. Frustratingly, nothing has changed. In addition, this year, employers in the engineering sector are reporting a general shortage of candidates for positions, leading to more difficulties in recruiting (34%) – a marked increase from 2020 (22%). UK engineering companies must now seek to improve profitability and productivity with fewer staff than before.

“We are urging more companies to provide work experience opportunities for young people to help roll out T-levels and further learnings. Addressing this skills crisis requires a deeper engagement between government, employers and the education system to produce a talent pool that can support a thriving UK economy. The IET has already started engaging with government calling for the integration of engineering into existing science, technology and math learning in elementary school.

The impact of the pandemic on staff recruitment and skills was immediate, with more than half (55%) having to deal with staff members sick or isolating themselves from Covid-19. Nonetheless, companies remain optimistic about the future, confident in the economic outlook for their business (79%) and their industry (77%).

As the economy changes, so do business priorities. While 12 months ago the top priority was to reduce costs (44%), now the top priorities are focused on improving profitability (67%) and productivity (62%).

However, one of the long-term impacts of the pandemic has to do with skills. Three in ten have experienced a downsizing in the past 12 months (31%) and half attribute this directly to Covid-19 (52%).

Looking ahead to the next five years, engineering employers recognize particular skill areas as important to the growth of their organization. However, whether or not they have these skills in the workforce varies widely. Design and manufacturing is recognized as a key area by 36% of respondents and most (64%) have the skills they think they need. However, energy and environmental sustainability is the second most cited area of ​​growth (35%) and only half (51%) have the skills they need.

In light of this skills gap, it’s no surprise that only half (50%) believe it is possible for their organization to be net zero by 2050, in line with the UK target.

This is the fifteenth year that the EIT has published its skills assessment. The fieldwork was conducted online with 1,039 engineering and technology employers across the UK between August 6 and September 2, 2021 by market research agency YouGov. The last skills survey with comparative data was carried out in 2020.

The IET Industry Skills and Demand 2021 report is available on the EIT website.


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