A solution to the UK’s engineering shortage?

Having a full complement of engineering talent is vitally important to UK plc if it’s to fight its corner in worldwide markets and help pull the country round from the recent downturn.

However, the number of engineers being produced is well below that needed for the health of the economy.

Now the industry has begun to fight back by launching an initiative that it hopes will address the shortfall.

The Talent Retention Solution (TRS) is a sector specific programme supported by the likes of BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Nissan. It is hoped that it will help recruit and retain key advanced manufacturing and engineering skills in the UK, in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, defence, energy, marine, manufacturing, nuclear power generation and renewable industries.

Central to the initiative is a web-based programme called ‘CWeb’, which has been called an ‘eBay for talent’.

With many firms crying out for the engineers who can help them fulfil orders and develop the new technologies that will be needed in the future, it’s not surprising that more than 500 companies have already registered for the scheme. Importantly, these include not just heavyweight players, like Siemens and EDF, but also much smaller companies who might find themselves overlooked by graduates as they head off into the job marketplace.

The site offers companies the opportunity to easily highlight their active vacancies and search for available talent. Consequently, the site has been deliberately created with the minimum of red tape to enable small and medium-sized firms to create the most immediate connection with potential employees.

The site has already proved popular amongst engineers, with several thousand quickly signing up, including both students and those already established in the profession.

Elsewhere, there are other signs of a concerted effort by the industry to address the widespread talent shortage.

BAE Systems has put in place a programme that will see 50 new apprentices trained by them over three years, before being released to work for component and service companies that are part of BAE’s supply chain in the North West. If this pilot scheme proves successful, then it’s likely to be rolled out by the company across the rest of the country.

But is all this just a drop in the ocean? Is the industry fighting a losing battle?

With approximately 100,000 graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths needed just to maintain the existing pool of engineers, we are still only producing some 23,000 graduate engineers every year. India on the other hand produces eight times that number and China twenty as many!

Ultimately, perhaps, the problem won’t ever be solved until the prospect of being an engineer becomes a genuine and first choice career option for those at school and college.

Most particularly, the engineering sector must improve the way it presents itself to young women, who are currently woefully under-represented in the industry, with females making up just 6% of the work force.

But that’s in the long-term. For the moment, it’s down to initiatives like the Talent Retention Solution to attempt to fill the gap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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