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Ageing workforce and growing skills shortage pose greatest challenge to UK’s engineering industries, according to new research from Matchtech
Transfer of talent is an important solution to the skills shortage according to Matchtech
- More than half of UK engineers are considering moving to a different engineering sector to pursue new opportunities
As engineering productivity is gaining momentum in the improving economy, growing demand for skilled engineers is widening the skills shortage and the ageing workforce is perceived as the greatest challenge to industry economic success, according to new research from Matchtech, the UK’s no. 1 engineering recruitment specialist.
The findings from the annual Matchtech Confidence Index, a survey of over 3,500 engineers, showed that, for the second year running, engineers cited the ageing workforce as the greatest issue facing the UK’s engineering industry, with 30% of respondents believing it poses the greatest challenge over the coming 12 months.
A lack of students studying STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) subjects was identified as the second biggest issue facing the industry (16% of those surveyed), with lower pay rates compared to other industries ranked as the third greatest concern (8% of those surveyed).
Yet despite the challenges, the outlook for the engineering industry is positive, with more than half (56%) of engineers saying they are confident the UK will continue to be an international leader. This positivity was echoed at a high-level industry roundtable debate, hosted by Matchtech on 25th November 2014, where industry experts said the UK would remain a global leader in engineering, but that it is essential for the skills shortage to be tackled.
Matchtech’s study paints a clear picture of skills shortages and the challenge of attracting the calibre of people that industry needs to fill new roles, as older workers reach retirement.
It is also clear that demand for candidates is strong, with more than two fifths (42%) of engineers saying their company is looking to recruit more people in the coming 12 months, and just 20% saying they do not believe their employer will hire more staff.
More than half (59%) of UK engineers say they are considering transferring to a different sector within the industry as job market opportunities continue to grow. These respondents were then asked to choose one or more industries they would transfer to. Oil and gas was the most popular selection (54%), with renewable energy (47%), aerospace (47%), power generation (41%) automotive (34%) and rail (30%) sectors also being selected.
Keith Lewis, Matchtech Managing Director states: “As the research shows, the engineering skills shortage is very apparent, and the infrastructure, power and water/utilities sectors in particular are seeing strong demand for staff as more experienced engineers retire.”
“While many existing engineers are reaping the benefits of a buoyant job market and good salaries, long-term this imbalance between supply and demand for engineers has to be addressed if the UK engineering sector is to maintain its global position and drive growth in the UK economy.”
As a solution to the skills gap, introducing more apprenticeships was seen as the most important to engineers in the survey, with 32% citing this as a top priority. Promotion of engineering as the career of choice to the younger generation in schools was seen as a top priority for 23%.Retraining and up-skilling of workers in other sectors (and the military) were also seen as key to addressing the issue.
Keith Lewis continues: “Promoting engineering and STEM subjects to students, and supporting young talent through apprenticeships, is crucial in addressing the skills shortage longer term. However, the issue must be tackled across all levels and this means advocating the transfer of skills from one sector to another. It is encouraging to see that so many engineers would consider moving to another sector.”
The Confidence Index also highlights that the ageing engineering workforce makes tackling the challenge all the more urgent, with the 3,503 engineers questioned working an average of 20 years plus in the industry and 29% of those questioned having worked over 30 years in the industry.
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