According to a new survey of more than 1,150 members of the Institution undertaken in collaboration with the Tata group, 70% said that ‘understanding of an engineer’s job’, together with ‘the image of engineering’ (68%) were the two biggest barriers to young people choosing an engineering career.
When asked how the UK education system should change to boost the supply of new engineers, 57% said ‘focus on maths, physics and theory’ was the most crucial factor, followed by ‘more hands-on work’ and ‘greater emphasis on industry and vocation’.
Among 18-24 year olds, however, the order was reversed: 74% saw ‘more hands-on work’ as the number one priority. Maths, physics and theory was prioritised by just under half.
More than 1.8m additional engineers and qualified technicians will be needed by 2025 to meet existing and growing demand for skills across Britain, according to Engineering UK.
There is currently a shortfall of at least 20,000 UK-trained engineers every year. The engineering sector as a whole currently accounts for 26% of GDP and more than 5.7m jobs.
Energy (64%), biomedical (42%) and aerospace (38%) emerged as the top three sectors that engineers believed held the most opportunities for future growth – with ICT and software a close fourth (35%). Power and energy (42%) came top in a list of sectors that engineers thought should be a focus for UK R&D, as well as the type of infrastructure investment most likely to drive value for the UK (73%).
Other infrastructure priorities included Rail (52%), Road (34%) ICT (32%) and Airports (31%).
When it came to countries the UK should emulate, 81% of engineers thought Germany had the best industrial strategy, while China (40%), Japan (36%) and South Korea (29%) also scored strongly.
Dr Colin Brown, the Institution’s Engineering Director, said in response to the report: “What is clear is that the UK’s engineering skills shortage is a huge challenge and one that cannot be tackled by engineers and industry alone. We need to entice more young people into engineering by getting parents, teachers, employers and education specialists on board to bring about the culture change necessary. A first step is seeing engineering as a people focused, creative and socially beneficial activity.”
Read the full report.