The UK engineering sector could enter a spiral of decline if it fails to develop more engineering technicians, a leading engineering body warned last week.
The Experience Gap: the Unspoken Skills report published by professional registration promotion body EngTechNow predicts that a shortfall of under-19s taking advanced engineering apprenticeships could jeopardise the UK’s international competitiveness.
“Unless something is done about the experience gap now, it has the potential to get far worse,” said the report.
“An inability to compete internationally could cause the engineering sector to decline, which would deter even more people from entering it in the first place.”
Speaking at the publication launch, EngTechNow chief executive Blane Judd said the sector faced a technician shortfall of 450,000 by 2020.
“Fortunately solutions are emerging from forward-thinking infrastructure projects, employers and trade unions, which, if adopted more widely, will see the skills and experience gap overcome,” said Judd.
Alongside publication of the report, 13 organisations - a mix of major clients, engineering firms and trade unions - signed a charter committing to ensure their technicians and apprentices would be supported to achieve professional status.
Crossrail technical director Chris Sexton is one of the client signatories.
“In Crossrail we work across a very wide supply chain and people are worried in the tier 1 contractors and the SMEs about whether they’ve got the skills base to fulfil the contracts they’ve got and the ones they hope to get in the future,” he said.
“The approach [in the construction industry] to the skills gap has been to hope for the best and in my view that will no longer do. Companies have to invest in the training for their engineering teams and this means apprentices programmes and early professional recognition as engineering technicians.”
The EngTechNow charter signatories are: Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Crossrail, Doosan Babcock, E.ON, Jaguar Land Rover, NG Bailey, Prospect, QinetiQ, Royal Mail, Thames Tideway, TSSA and WSP.
To download the report, click here
The EngTechNow report outlined a five-point plan that organisations could follow in order to deal with the experience gap:
- Client bodies need to manage supply chain skills risks
- Greater collaboration across industry
- Emphasis must be put on the quality of apprenticeships, not just quantity
- Greater professionalisation of engineering roles
- Direct collaboration between major projects and schools/colleges