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Too few engineering graduates have engineering jobs, says study

Fewer than half of engineering graduates were working as engineers six months after leaving university, with around a quarter working in unskilled jobs such as waiting on tables, a study said last week.

The author of the survey findings said there are not enough engineering jobs in the UK to employ graduates. Just under a quarter of newly-qualified engineers report every year that they are working in non-graduate, routine or unskilled jobs, such as being cashiers and waiters. Six months after graduation, some 12% of engineering graduates worked in sales, and 5% in “elementary admin and service” roles. Just 38% of engineering graduates had a job in the profession.

The figures offer a stark contrast to the Council for Industry and Higher Education’s statement in 2009 that “we cannot stress too forcibly our concern at the critical shortage of graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capabilities”. In 2008 employer’s group the CBI also claimed one third of businesses were reporting a shortage of adequately qualified STEM graduates.

Professor Emma Smith, who presented the paper, said that these claims now seem unlikely. She urged for better research into what the real demand for engineering students actually is, and said that “perhaps, because of recent initiatives, there seem to be too many people for the labour market to cope with, or perhaps graduates are no longer of sufficient quality.”

She added, however, that with the high A-level grades and the accreditation of engineering degrees by institutions such as the ICE, that standards should be guaranteed.

About the survey

The University of Birmingham carried out the survey, entitled Is there a shortage of scientists?

The research analysed figures from 1986 to 2009 from the Higher Education Statistical Agency on the numbers of engineering students entering related jobs, other professions or work that did not require a degree. Figures were presented at the British Educational Research Associations’ annual conference.

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