Engineering recruits do not meet the expectations of one in two employers, research has revealed.
The Skills and Demand in Industry report found that 53% of employers in the sector felt let down by the standard of new staff.
Business acumen was said to be missing from many new starters, along with practical experience.
A lack of skills and experience was the biggest problem identified with job candidates by the study, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Unrealistic expectations were also a bugbear, particularly of graduates and post-graduates.
Graham Pearl, engineering director at design and installation firm dB Broadcast, said: “We are having difficulty finding sufficient enthusiastic graduates, with knowledge of our industry, our company and sound knowledge of the associated technology.
“There is a particular weakness in understanding the fundamentals and nature of projects. We had a graduate in media technology in for an interview who, once he understood the role, was asked if this was something he would be interested in. He replied: ‘This looks like hard work.’
“Another graduate mentioned that in five years’ time he wanted to progress to become a project manager. ‘Great,’ we said. ‘And what do you think the key roles of a project manager would be?’ This was met with a prolonged silence.”
IET chief executive Nigel Fine said the role of education in preparing people for industry was under the spotlight.
“Two thirds of employers express concern that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change,” he said.
“The need for schools to promote the opportunities available in engineering and IT careers to pupils from an early age, the relationships between university courses and industry demands, and the need for greater input from industry into policy and curriculum are all highlighted in this report.”
One in four employers said degrees did not meet their needs, with more than half of organisations feeling technical degrees did not develop practical skills.
Keith Joughlin, technical engineering services manager at Tata Steel Long Products, said: “We are not convinced that universities are focused on preparing their students for the workplace. They have become funding driven, not outcome-driven, and seem to have lost the will to link the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths to industry requirements.
“Universities appear to be more research-focused, as a revenue stream, rather than concentrating on the primary teaching function. In electrical engineering, we have noticed a trend towards focusing on electronics rather than power engineering – is this because it is cheap to provide students with printed circuit boards and a box full of resistors and capacitors, rather than need to give practical experience on large motors, generators and switchgear?”
The poll found that fewer than one in 10 workers in the engineering and technology sector was female. Yet more than half of businesses surveyed did not have gender diversity initiatives in place.
The IET called for:
- Employers to make long-term skills plans
- Collaboration between policy makers, education providers and employers to boost preparation for work
- Teachers to work closer with businesses
- Employers to do more to attract a more diverse workforce
- Promotion of engineering to parents of boys and girls
The IET also created a news-style programme in partnership with ITN Productions examining the need for universities and companies to work together.