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Almost half of engineers believe Brexit will make skills gap worse

Professional Engineering

An empty workshop (Credit: Shutterstock)
An empty workshop (Credit: Shutterstock)

Almost half of engineers believe Brexit will increase the skills gap as employers struggle to hire talented foreign workers, new research has found.

The work, carried out ahead of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Achievement and Innovation Awards last night – and publicised before the Cabinet backed Theresa May's Brexit deal – also found that 73% of the 400 professionals surveyed said the government needs to give more clarity on how leaving the EU will affect industry.

Figures estimating the annual shortfall of engineers in the UK vary, but Engineering UK previously put it at 69,000, and post-Brexit immigration controls could make that number even bigger. Manufacturers have also repeatedly called for more information on negotiations to allow them to plan ahead and prevent employment, supply chain and trade issues.

The wide-ranging research covered many other topics, asking what the UK’s engineering sector can help solve in the next 10 years. Some 78% said renewable alternatives will be introduced to tackle plastic, and two thirds believed urban infrastructures to cut carbon emissions will have been developed by 2028.

Almost half (44%) said engineers could create innovative systems to help solve the global water crisis and 65% believed engineering can increase productivity in farming to alleviate world food shortages.

Despite the ambitious goals, the engineering and technology professionals also highlighted concerns with the sector. Thirty-seven per cent of professionals said social mobility is one of the main adversities and 35% said the sector is still not doing enough to engage more women into the profession.

“It’s vital for STEM to break down the barriers of diversity in engineering, so when we’re designing artificial intelligence, decision making is fair and benefits everyone in society,” said award nominee Professor Adrian Hilton from the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing at the University of Surrey. “In order to attract a large pool of talent it’s important we showcase what an exciting and rewarding career engineering can be.”

To help tackle the skills gap, 76% of those surveyed said inspiration from teachers and schools is the key to encouraging young people to begin careers in the sector, and almost half (47%) want to set up better links between state schools and engineers to tackle social mobility.

“In a challenging climate, our engineering workforce is doing all they can to continue to progress and build new innovations and solutions to today’s major issues,” said awards event organiser Tanya Spencer. “We understand this is no small task, so our annual Achievement and Innovation Awards celebrate the best across the sector. With a challenging future ahead, it’s more important than ever to attract future generations to the exciting and creative roles within our sector and help close the skills gap.”

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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