In the engineering sector, there is a shortage of talent and an abundance of roles that need to be filled by professionals with the skills. Although engineering and manufacturing are both exciting, and diverse in their subject matter, businesses must begin thinking outside of the box, in terms of how they encourage people to take up a career in engineering. 

According to research taken out by EngineeringUK, the proportion of young people aged 11 to 14 who said they would consider a career in engineering was 54.7% in 2019. This highlights the potential candidate pool available to the sector and it is important to keep them interested throughout their education.

The challenges that engineering businesses face

More men than women

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is more interest in engineering by men, rather than women. EngineeringUK state that there are sizeable and persistent gender differences with boys being far more likely to consider a career in engineering. Whilst this may not be surprising, the nature of this persistent statistic means that businesses are cut off from an entire talent pool, which they will need to tap into if they want to propel into the future. 

However, there is still hope, EngineeringUK’s research discovered that while girls are underrepresented in STEM subjects at both GCSE and A level, they tend to outperform boys in examinations at both levels of study. This is particularly apparent in GCSE design and technology, where 75.0% of girls achieved grades A*-C/7- 4 compared to 55.3% of boys. So, this proves that although women are underrepresented in the working field, the talent is available to nurture whilst women are studying. Keeping these potential candidates engaged from school to the workplace is the task that should be focused to attract and retain women to engineering. 

A candidate-short market

In today’s market, there are more vacancies than there are candidates. This means that candidates are spoilt for choice with different job opportunities, and businesses are competing with each other for the top talent in the market. EngineeringUK has said that it is forecast that between 2014 and 2024, 13 million job openings will arise across the economy as a result of those who leave the labour market (replacement demand) and a further 1.8 million openings will arise as newly created jobs (expansion demand). Meaning that whilst this is a problem now, it may not be resolved in time. Engineering businesses should be taking a hands-on approach to solving the talent-shortage.

A lack of skills 

Engineering positions are typically highly skilled roles, with professionals needing training and education in their field before they are suitable to be hired. EngineeringUK said that there is a considerable shortage of appropriately skilled workers in the engineering sector. The top drivers of the skills gap reported by employers include strong competition for skilled candidates, a shortage of applicants with appropriate qualifications and a lack of awareness among young people of the educational routes into engineering occupations. 

These skills gaps in businesses need to be filled, and a basic education in engineering, moving through to college and university, would be the best place to begin filling the gaps. Targeting school and college students who are studying the subjects that link well with engineering could be a chance to educate them on the opportunities that a career in engineering can offer. As, unfortunately, a lot of the problem is a lack of knowledge about what they can achieve working within engineering. 

EngineeringUK has outlined that young people seek career advice from a variety of different sources depending on the stage in their educational career, with younger pupils looking to their parents/guardians, and college students looking to careers advisors to discuss their options. Making yourself known as a business to schools and colleges will open the dialogue for them to consider your business as somewhere to build their career.

Changing opinions on engineering

Changing perceptions of the engineering sector is crucial when considering the future of the sector, and who will be working within it from the next generation. Making strategies to target the below next steps is a good place to start:

  • Engage with parents and students, giving insights into the possibilities that engineering can offer them in their future.
  • Show all pupils at a young age what the opportunities are that engineering can offer. 
  • Look to start careers education early and plan to give exposure to your business and the engineering sector as a whole. 
  • Host and take part in engineering events, including careers fairs at schools and colleges.

If you are looking to hire top talent to your engineering and manufacturing business, get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today. Alternatively, submit a job spec, and we will call you. If you are looking for a new opportunity, why not create a MyPage account to find the jobs that are best suited to you and your skillset.

Katherine Hills
Consultant, Michael Page Engineering & Manufacturing

Jessica Pycroft
Consultant, Michael Page Engineering & Manufacturing