Simon Conington – MD of recruitment experts BPS and Chair of the Engineering and Technical Group at REC on creating a brighter future for engineers
Our engineering heritage is all around us. Recently, our ability, efficiency and creativity in engineering was brilliantly showcased at the 2012 London Olympics. But engineering is not just a source of pride. It is estimated that engineering is worth £900 billion to the UK economy every year; yet every year the skills shortage increases.
There have been numerous studies carried out with depressingly similar findings. For example, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering last year, found that the UK needs to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates by around 50% per year. That’s 100,000 graduates needed every year, just to maintain the status quo. Why does a nation with such an outstanding reputation in engineering fail to attract and recruit our young people to become engineers?
One of the big issues is that, unlike many other nations, the British do not regard engineering with the same degree of respect as other professions. Engineering has become a very loose term that is used to describe almost anyone who works with machines. Internationally, engineers are regarded as highly as doctors and lawyers.
The good news is that action is being taken to address the problem. The governing body for the recruitment industry, REC, has an engineering forum made up of influencers in engineering. I’m a member of that forum. We seek to address the key issues facing the industry as well as put in place some fundamental changes that will enable the industry to thrive. One key area that we’re looking at is the grassroots; what is happening in education; how is the engineering industry being promoted to the next generation?
A key consideration is highlighting the importance of STEM subjects and aptitude in these subjects as crucial to shaping future career decisions. REC is passionate about changing the next generations’ perception of engineering; it’s a profession that should excite our young people. REC has also forged links with the Government and we will be working with them to influence policy to ensure that it enhances the engineering sector’s appeal to young people.
At BPS we are committed to raising the industry bar and lead by example. For example, we are developing the first ever Industry Apprenticeship Qualification in conjunction with REC, to improve the status and professionalism of recruitment as a career. We’re hoping that the Rising Stars programme will help find the people capable of recruiting the engineers of the future. BPS is also championing the Elite Engineering Programme that aims to engage young people in engineering.
Engineering is at the very heart of our business at BPS. One of our longest standing clients, the nuclear company Nuvia, has been a partner for decades. Working with them and others we have been at the sharp end of meeting the skills shortage and the challenge of recruiting engineers who have the right qualifications, certifications and aptitude for utilising the latest technologies. In recent years it has become particularly difficult to find people with the right technical skills married with interpersonal skills.
Many of our engineering clients are now taking their own measures. Tim Hopkinson, MD of engineering company MW Hargreaves advised; “We believe a broader and more far-reaching understanding of the engineering industry will only be achieved if we engage at grassroots level. Our EYTP (Engineering Youth Talent programme) is in place to fundamentally build greater insight, as well as generate enthusiasm and inspire the next generation. We work closely with two local secondary schools to show them the depth and range of the industry – not just the engineering jobs available within the company, but also the roles that work to support that function. It’s important to see how all areas work hand in hand to fulfil projects and that there are positions available for varying skill sets”.
There are a huge number of people across the private and public sector, in government, education and industry who are all working hard to address this problem. Any business that employs engineers is urged to get involved. This is an issue that can be solved, but your help is needed to solve it.