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Ask the Engineers: 'What are the growth areas in engineering?'

Professional Engineering

'Innovation is the key moving forward for any industry, including steel fabrication' (Credit: Shutterstock)
'Innovation is the key moving forward for any industry, including steel fabrication' (Credit: Shutterstock)

Are you stuck in a career rut or planning your next move? Maybe you’re a student struggling to decide on an industry? We're putting your burning questions to our panel of seasoned engineers.

In Issue 5, 2022, Andy G asked: "What are the ‘growth’ areas in engineering? I work in the steel fabrication industry and it seems to be in decline with skills shortages and a lack of desire for young people to join the sector. Which sectors are attracting the young talent at the moment?"

The sectors that are going from niche to mainstream and growing at a very rapid rate are those related to sustainability. This has become a huge sector with a very wide range of engineering disciplines serving an even wider range of markets. The markets range from the obvious renewables sectors of wind and solar through to sustainable materials, recycling, waste reuse, anaerobic digestion, electrification of transport, hydrogen economy technologies and infrastructure. These areas are not just driven by the drive for net zero but increasingly by cost justification. For instance, renewables have moved from requiring subsidy to be viable to being very profitable on their own merits. (Clue: the fuel is free!)

Michael Reid


I can comment on Andy’s query from the perspective of a retired chartered engineer after working in three very different manufacturing industries and many years as a consultant. After watching the steady decline of manufacturing, what attracts potential engineers now? I work in a climbing/adventure centre and meet many students. What are you studying at uni? What excites you? What do you want to do? The commonest answers are techy stuff: designing computer games is topped by artificial intelligence. No one ever says “I want to make stuff”. We leave that to China and Germany now, don’t we? What on earth are schools teaching our kids? Why are politicians so short term? Sorry to agree Andy but fabricators I used to use are long gone. 

Chris Jones 


Offshore wind is growing rapidly with the need to double the workforce over the next five years to meet the government’s targets for 50GW additional capacity. This is a sector which is attractive to young people as it fits with their sense of purpose. Hopefully this will generate associated opportunities for Andy and the steel fabrication industry as well.

Richard Haydock


The energy sector is a growth area, particularly offshore windfarms. And that needs, guess what? Steel fabricators. The laws of supply and demand apply to human resource too, so the skills shortage will eventually mean higher wages and job security for those lucky enough to be with a major supplier. I’d say, right now, stick with it.

Ian Weslake-Hill


Advanced materials seem to be growing in the UK. I’ve worked in the composites industry for the last 20 years and the growth has been enormous as it’s transitioned from a niche, low-volume, specialist area into the mainstream for so many industries. I can see this trend continuing as the desire for efficient structural solutions becomes ever more important in the face of energy costs etc. I would imagine that bio-resins and natural fibres will be the next big growth area in order to reduce the reliance on substrates derived from fossil fuels.

Gabriel Izienicki 


Metal bashing does not have the glamour of aeronautical engineering or electrical engineering. However, without mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineers would be reduced to flying kites, while electrical engineers would be flying kites in thunderstorms.

Rhys Owen 


I work for an energy company focused on oil and gas and renewables in the UK as well as globally. We always have a good stream of graduates for engineering roles and apprenticeships for workshop and offshore roles. In fact, the demand for offshore workers we can’t really keep up with (riggers/mechanics/electricians). 



Don’t lose hope: decarbonising steel production is a hot ticket and, whilst composites may be interesting, steel is durable and recyclable. Putting that aside, I think any business which effectively tackles energy efficiency in domestic properties will see a massive growth.

Chris Elliott


I would think that innovation is the key moving forward for any industry, including steel fabrication. The young engineers would like challenging jobs. 

I am working in the rail industry. It is moving to advanced analytics (big data) and a cyber technology regime. 



There is a very real appetite amongst younger engineers to make a difference to the environment, particularly with regards to energy, such as hydrogen production and utilisation, and carbon capture and storage

Andy Brown


No one knows. Managers and owners will naturally promote the field they know best. For now, look to wave, solar and wind energy. Military stuff may develop to help out Ukraine or sadly to repulse Russia. Don’t bank on any sector. 

Richard Fung


Follow the money. Currently this means IT and associated services. For more politically unfashionable but essential industries, consider power generation and defence.

H G Evans

Become a net zero expert at Sustainability in Engineering (26-30 September), part of the Engineering Futures webinar series. Register for FREE now.

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


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