Not skills shortages again!!!!

Posted on 01/05/2017 by IED

Engineering graduate supply continues to fall way below the levels needed – and the signs for the future are not encouraging

Our cover story this issue, written by the editor, is on the skills shortage in engineering. As I sit writing my 11th ‘View’, I realise this is something upon which I, too, have written in these columns in the context of developing conversion courses to enable people with non-traditional academic backgrounds to enter engineering (Jan-Feb 2016) and embracing diversity, particularly in employment of apprentices (Nov-Dec 2016).

I recently settled down to read the ‘EngineeringUK 2017’ report, that annual state of the nation for engineering, and found myself wondering if I had picked up last year’s version, as the ‘state’ seems to be very much the same – except Brexit is mentioned! Here’s a taster:

  • Engineering graduate supply falls well short of demand…
  • We are highly dependent on attracting and retaining international talent from the EU and beyond to help meet this shortfall: a vital part of post-Brexit policies
  • Efforts to attract girls and women into engineering are falling short: today less than 1 in 8 of the engineering workforce is female; boys are 3.5 times more likely to study A level physics than girls

There are snippets of good news in the report:

  • 9% more engineering and technology first degrees obtained in 2014/15 than the year before
  • Highest number of engineering-related apprenticeship starts in England for 10 years

(EngineeringUK 2017 – The State of Engineering Foreword pii)

Why are we finding it so hard to solve this problem? An easy solution would be to attract more of the 50% of the population who generally don’t go into engineering in the UK – ie, females.

This issue relates to a recent personal decision. My daughter has just been accepted into a single sex grammar school for her 11-18 education. The single sex element is an issue I have grappled with. However, the school’s results show that approximately equal numbers of girls take arts/humanities subjects as maths/science subjects at A level. This is not true of co-educational establishments, something which reached the newspaper headlines in Jan 2016[i] when ‘SchoolDash’[ii] showed the significant difference between all girls and co-ed schools on selection of subject, as well as achievement. So perhaps this is the answer: a return to single sex education. Yet single sex education is not the norm for those countries sending much higher numbers of females into engineering than the UK. What we really need is more research to better understand the UK’s apparently unique social engineering.




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