In May, the UK’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called on the Government to set out how it will address the continuing challenge of skills shortages to ensure that massive plans for new major infrastructure over the next five years is value for money for taxpayers.

The PAC is a Parliamentary body described as the most important political committee of its kind – it’s responsible for overseeing government spending. A year ago, the Government Major Projects Portfolio included 244 projects with an estimated total whole-life cost of a whopping £805 billion as the Government looks to develop sectors including road, rail and energy.

The trouble is, skills shortages in technical and engineering disciplines are set to worsen as gaps in the UK’s workforce are intensified by competition from major global development projects.

In the PAC’s press release, its chair, Dame Meg Hillier MP said:

“Without a robust market for essential skills in place, these are challenges the UK will fail to meet, as shortages push costs up in a globally competitive environment.”

It’s a comment that echoes that of EngineeringUK’s Chief Executive, Dr Hilary Leevers who said at the time of its major report, Engineering skills needs – now and into the future, that the UK needed:

“a robust plan and funding in place to train the future workforce, bringing more young people from all backgrounds into engineering and technology.”

She also said: “With the growth in green skills, and the central role engineers and technicians play in transitioning to a green economy and addressing climate change, ensuring that the sector has the skilled workforce needed to thrive is more urgent than ever.”

Complex issues

We have discussed many times in these pages just how important engineers are to our way of life and that’s not going to change – probably ever. So important in fact, that questions like when will engineering be embedded into primary and secondary education?; how to encourage more young people to consider an engineering career?; and how on earth are we going to cope in the future given this dearth of new engineering blood? are argued and written about every day.

The good news is that this consistent demand for engineers and technicians across various sectors means that those who choose this route are likely to have a job for life. Annually there’s a need for roughly 125,000 of them, along with another 80,000 who have broad engineering skills. It’s not going to lessen either.

That’s because many engineering businesses have difficulty in finding people with the right skills. It’s a complex situation, no doubt, but part of it is that the skills gap appears to be because those skills taught in education don’t match those required by employers. In turn, the teaching of engineering in schools and its practical application and link to science and maths isn’t always stressed. Time and again we hear about engineering leaders asking for engineering to be embedded in the National Curriculum. The teachers have to be right too – educators who understand the subject and who can pass their knowledge on. Fix the above and we will be some way to answering the above questions.

Some measures have been implemented – a greater promotion of STEM subjects in schools; apprenticeship opportunities; a widening of the net to foster diversity and inclusion to attract a wider range of talent. The Government’s Engineering Skills Shortage Strategy has also been launched which aims to invest in training programmes, collaborate with stakeholders and support industry-led initiatives.

Home advantage

Luckily young people in our area have a double advantage. Firstly, because of our national importance as an energy cluster of excellence with a huge demand for engineering jobs and, secondly, because of TTE. We’ve been around for more than three decades and our educators have been turning out exceptional young candidates, who have, in turn, burnished our reputation as a home of first class engineering education which has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. And that’s never going to change.

Call us today about your career prospects in an engineering role starting with ‘hands on’ practical training, working towards a City & Guilds Level 2 NVQ qualification, in either the Electrical or Mechanical discipline; and, or leading to, a Level 3 Science Industry Maintenance Technician or Level 3 Science\manufacturing Technician; or a Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering.

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