Engineering UK's 2015 report flags two key overriding messages. Firstly, the UK continues to dominate as a global leader in engineering with skilled, world class engineers, and the engineering sector makes a valuable contribution to the economy. Presently, 5.4 million professionals are employed within the engineering sector in the UK, which is equivalent to one-fifth of all people employed in UK enterprises. The field of engineering plays a crucial role in tackling global challenges such as climate change, energy, food supply, clean water, and ageing populations.
Secondly, UK education is far from reaching the capacity of growth required to meet the global demand for skilled engineers by 2022. The Working Futures 2012-2022 report highlights that of 14.3 million UK job openings, 12.5 million will be created by people leaving the labour market (also known as replacement demand), and 1.8 million result from the creation of new jobs.
In 2015, the UK has seen huge success in a number of engineering sub-sectors; including: automotive, aerospace, construction, biosciences, space, chemicals, electronics, oil and gas, renewables and more. At a time of tight control over public spend, the UK government continues to offer strong support for science, engineering and research. As a vital part of the UK economy, engineering employers are forecasted to generate an additional £27 billion per year from 2022, which is synonymous to building a staggering 1,800 secondary schools or 110 new hospitals.
For the UK to benefit from these gains, a close look at the skills gap is pertinent. The industry must find a way to meet the forecasted demand for 257,000 new engineering vacancies on time. Not only is the engineering industry significant economically, but also in terms of employment as every engineering role leads to an additional two jobs created.
Failing to meet the engineering workforce requirements could potentially result in dire consequences. Not only will this damage the UK economy, but it will also negatively impact on engineering employers' prosperity and economic sustainability. Moreover, the engineering field's ability to secure a lasting legacy for future generations in terms of ensuring food supply, clean water and energy, will be compromised.
Above all, the 2015 report highlights the single biggest threat to success lies with education. The education sector is currently the missing piece of the puzzle; to meet demand, enough young people must be encouraged to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects at schools and colleges. At present, there are not enough specialist STEM teachers sufficiently trained to help meet this aim.