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Insight | Skills shortage sees civil engineers' salaries creep up


Salaries across the engineering sector vary by £14,407, with electronics engineers topping the scale at £47,394 and environment professionals earning the least at £32,987, a new report has revealed.

Engineering UK’s annual report, State of Engineering 2018, shows that all engineering salaries are comfortably higher than the national median wage of £28,213.

Civil engineers’ median earnings have grown over the last year by 1.7% to reach an average of £40,953. It compares favourably to mechanical engineers whose salaries, although beating civil engineers’ earnings at £41,808, decreased in the last year by 1.9%.

Electrical engineers saw their salaries jump 3.5% to reach £44,696 and electronic engineers’ salaries soared 14.4% to hit £47, 394.

Environment professionals earned the least at £32,987, despite an overall 4.5% pay rise, closely followed by quality and planning engineers at £36,012.

One reason for the general uplift in engineering salaries appears to be a lack of qualified candidates, according to the research. However real wages across the UK are falling as a result of poor productivity and the knock-on effects of leaving the EU.

For graduates, the financial news is good. An average starting salary of £25,607 for engineering graduates is only beaten by veterinary medicine graduates (£27,583) and doctors (£29,658). Engineers’ starting salaries are 18% higher than overall starting salaries, which sit at £21,719.

In education, engineering is attracting a stronger focus. More school pupils are taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at A-Level in the UK, while 129,059 people started engineering apprenticeships between 2015-16.

A shortage of teachers qualified in STEM subjects threatens to undo this progress; between 2011 and 2016 pupil numbers in secondary schools grew by 500,000 while the number of STEM teachers has remained the same since 2015. For 2017-18 there is an estimated shortfall of 2,188 STEM trainee teachers against the Department for Education’s teacher supply model target.

“Across the years, the report’s key message has remained largely the same: the engineering sector is of vital importance to the UK, yet demand for people with engineering skills is not being met by supply through the UK education pipeline,” wrote Royal Academy of Engineering president Ann Dowling in a foreword to the report.

“Concerted effort is needed to address the shortfall of engineers if these economic and social contributions are to be maintained.”

Work trends are expected to move towards an ‘hourglass’ economy, with demand for low and high skilled roles, such as civil engineering, with a squeeze on semi-skilled sectors in the middle. This is due to increased digitisation of the workforce and the effects of automation on peoples’ job roles.

According to Engineering UK, between 2014 and 2024, 1,240,000 engineering roles will become available due to replacing workers who retire as well as increased demand for engineers. When broken down further the research shows that each year 124,000 positions will need to be filled.

However, a shortfall of 37,000 to 59,000 university and apprenticeship graduates is expected each year, while around 61% of businesses surveyed by Engineering UK reported difficulties in recruiting qualified staff.

Institution of Civil Engineers membership director Seán Harris said major transport schemes such as High Speed 2 could be at risk as 7,200 qualified engineers will be needed by 2020.

“The reported increases in the uptake of STEM subjects show that real progress has been made but the UK still faces a significant skills shortfall,” he added.

“None of this should be a surprise to anyone in the industry. We have for some time known the scale of the problem and we risk the UK’s future economic prosperity and society’s wellbeing if we do not take urgent action.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming expressed concern that graduate recruitment could be affected by the increased focus on apprenticeship training.

She said: “Our own research has shown that there is a rising trend in the total number of graduates recruited, year on year, over the past three years. Yet, recruitment is influenced by many factors and in our most recent research report members cited continued uncertainty created by Brexit and the General Election as causing concerns about the availability of future work.”



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