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Shortfall of 1m engineers ‘threatens UK infrastructure projects’

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The shortfall could threaten projects such as HS2, the research found (Credit: HS2 Ltd)
The shortfall could threaten projects such as HS2, the research found (Credit: HS2 Ltd)

The UK faces a shortfall of 1m engineers by 2030, new research has found, threatening major infrastructure projects.

Demand for engineering expertise is on the rise, according to strategy firm Stonehaven, with 184 major engineering projects announced in the UK since 2020. Those projects have a total value of £542bn and are expected to create 1.2m jobs. 

The impending retirement of a fifth of the existing engineering workforce over the next five years – coupled with the struggle to fill 59,000 engineering roles a year – will create the shortfall of 1m by 2030, the international consultancy said, threatening work on projects such as HS2 and new hospitals.

Stonehaven said its research reveals an “urgent need” for the sector to tackle negative perceptions from the younger generation, and to think again about how a career in engineering is promoted to the next generation.

The research found that engineering came out top when people were asked to rank professions they most admired. But while 80% of people expressed high admiration for the industry, two-thirds said they had never thought of a career in the sector.

Across the age groups, Gen Z were the most reluctant to consider a career in engineering, with 30% saying they would not choose it.  A third (34%) thought the sector was too male-dominated, while 32% were put off by the idea of engineering being a maths and science related job.

Among millennials, 19% said they would not consider a career in engineering and 28% still thought of the sector as too male-dominated.  28% said they were simply not aware of job opportunities in the sector, however.

The work, which amalgamated a nationally representative study of 2,000 people with secondary data sources, found that 40% of Gen Z and Millennials are searching for jobs with the opportunity to improve their local area. “Promoting engineering as a job with the power to transform communities for the better will encourage more younger joiners and help close the growing recruitment gap,” Stonehaven said.

James Ruane, Stonehaven’s managing partner of communications and campaigns, said that while the research suggests engineering is not getting the credit it deserves, an urgent evolution of sector recruitment is needed.

“A quarter of those we polled said engineering had a ‘branding problem’,” he said. “While the numbers of women in the engineering workforce has almost doubled in a decade, it is still viewed by too many in the younger generation as being a male-dominated sector.

“Our findings underscore the urgency of raising awareness among the younger generation, not only of the opportunities across the sector, but also the diversity of its workforce.

“Engineering boosts local community prosperity and is a hidden benefit that jobseekers haven’t associated it with before. Recruitment that focuses on engineering as a profession, as a force… for the better, would help close the admiration and relatability gap of the sector.”


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

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