Skills shortage identified within engineering sector


Too few young people are leaving school with the appropriate skills to take up an Apprenticeship or career in engineering, according to a new report.

The study, from the organisation Engineering the Future (EtF), found that the industry is suffering because of misconceptions by young people and a lack of science skills among applicants.

Commenting on the findings this week, Richard Green, chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, told SecEd that companies and organisations such as the EtF must work with schools and the government to ensure future generations were inspired.

Mr Green said: “The prospective skills shortage identified by (the) research will come as no surprise to government or industry.

“While it’s true that not enough young people are leaving school with the skills or motivation to pursue a career in engineering, the responsibility to more closely link the classroom with the workplace should not sit solely with the government. 

“Our success in keeping design and technology on the curriculum was an important first step, but now it’s up to companies and interest groups like the EtF to work with the government, subject associations, and schools directly to ensure teachers have access to the materials they need to inspire the next generation of engineers and effectively prepare them for careers in industry.”

The EtF study, An Insight into Modern Manufacturing, considered the views and experiences of a number of engineering businesses and companies.

One respondent said that school-leavers did not come into the workplace with the right science skills. Another added: “There are a lot of misconceptions about manufacturing among young people: that it is badly paid, has high redundancy rates and is dirty, physically demanding work.”

Poor careers guidance was also a factor. One business manager said: “The lack of career advice and the national curriculum losing modules in design and technology at secondary level will have a negative impact on future manufacturing. 

“By taking away the chance to see the link between real-world applications of STEM subjects at school there is a risk that students will not take STEM subjects to a higher level.” 

As a result, the report said, engineering companies were trying to “grow their own” engineers through the apprentice route, though this was expensive for many businesses.

Mr Green said he was concerned about the image of subjects such as design and technology, and the “championing” by ministers of an “extremely narrow range of subjects, when the actual requirements are so much broader”.

He continued: “Our own Skills Gap programme has been shaped to increase the design and technical skills of teachers through industry partnerships.

“These are keeping design and technology education up-to-date by helping new and experienced teachers gain and develop the skills they need to excel in teaching the most dynamic and vibrant subject on the curriculum. Closer partnership with industry also provides an effective channel for careers advice and guidance, ensuring students are regularly exposed to real-world applications for the skills they learn in the classroom.

“All this may sound obvious but there is still some way to go before this type of partnership becomes anything like the norm in schools across the UK.”



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