It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that the UK is facing an engineering skills shortage – simply put, an ageing workforce and not enough qualified or trainee engineers to take the vacant roles. It seems to be a headline story every year.
As long ago as 2003, for example, demographically, the North West Chemical Initiative reported 27 percent of the cluster workforce was over 50 with only 11 per cent under 30. This differential was predicted to result in a huge shortfall in the workforce as the over 50s began to reach retirement age.
Fast forward to 2017 and Engineering UK reported the annual shortfall of graduate engineers at a very conservative 20,000 people.
The Year of Engineering
And so in 2018, UK government designated it the ‘Year of Engineering.’ In an effort to raise the profile of the sector, celebrate its people, its successes, its innovations and its importance, but also
to address the skills gap and inspire a new generation of trainee engineers into engineering careers by bringing young people face-to-face with 21st century engineering experiences and role models.
Running alongside it were 28 pioneering research projects led by 17 different universities, including the North’s eight most research intensive, which counts Liverpool and Manchester in their number.
At the time, Dr Annette Bramley, Director of the N8 Research Partnership, the collaborative body for these research-intensive universities, said: “Today’s engineering is exciting, creative and makes a difference to people’s lives. The value of engineering skills to the northern economy cannot be understated, because the demand for people with these skills exceeds supply.”
Yet two years on we seem no closer to solving a crisis exacerbated by Brexit and Coronavirus.
The Bigger Picture
This national picture is reflected locally. Cheshire and Warrington is a highly successful economy with a greater economic output than that of the UK’s core cities. The region is well known for its strengths in engineering and manufacturing and in addition there are significant strengths in chemicals, life sciences, energy and environment and great growth potential in agri-tech and digital.
Yet big challenges lie ahead. If the region is to maintain productivity, the ageing highly skilled workforce needs to be replaced – that’s 230,000 jobs by 2025 – and the deﬁcit of up to 60,000 graduates addressed. There is a clear mismatch between the skills employers need and the skills individuals choose to acquire. It is therefore the Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to put employers at the heart of inspiring and informing everyone about career and progression opportunities and making curricula fit for purpose.
The North West, and indeed Cheshire and Warrington, is also nationally significant for the nuclear industry, for example at Birchwood Park in Warrington which is one of the most successful centres for nuclear services in the UK.
In December 2016, the Nuclear Skills Strategic Group developed and published a plan by the UK’s nuclear industry, working together with government and trade unions, to set out how they could prepare skills and resources for the industry’s future. This document listed the disciplines needed in greater numbers to meet the demand of this expanding sector, almost all of which required generic engineering skills.
Where Does TTE Fit In?
Both plans mentioned above reflect our own thinking. We are of course a training provider set up by industry for industry, aware that not only is there an ongoing need, but also that skills and learning and education are key drivers of the economy, enabling businesses to grow and innovate. And individuals to find jobs and progress.
Both plans also focus on the need for employers and educators to work together to produce that pipeline of trainee engineers that can help the economy thrive. Further, it addresses diversification in engineering and attracting under-represented groups which will widen the pool of trained engineers and reduce skills shortages and gaps.
Joanna Cox, Head of Policy at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) said at the publication of their 2019 Skills and Demand in Industry report: “We are urging more businesses to provide more quality work experience opportunities for young people to help with the rollout of T Levels and more apprenticeships, enabling employees to earn while they learn and develop their work-readiness.
“There needs to be deeper engagement between employers and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy. Employers, educators, government and professional institutions like the IET need to focus on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.”
Apprenticeships of the Highest Standard
And that’s our reason for being. In 2001, TTE invested £1.8 million in a purpose-built Training Centre to provide industry with trainee engineers of the highest standards through sponsored Advanced Apprenticeships Level 3 in Engineering and Laboratory Operations and Engineering Apprenticeship Level 2 programmes with Whole Person Development incorporated into the training.
As Dr Annette Bramley, who was once a sector head at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: ,“Engineering is a great choice for a rewarding career…with a new Industrial Strategy for the UK, it’s essential that we sow the seeds we can reap in the near future to drive faster and more balanced economic growth.”
Contact us today for more information on our training programmes.