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Insight: Skills shortage putting engineering and tech businesses at risk

31st Jul 2014
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Over half of employers in the engineering and technology sector are struggling with skills shortages, putting the future of their business at risk, according to a new study.

Findings from the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) annual report on skills have revealed that demand for staff remains high, with 51% of employers in the sector planning to recruit this year, yet of those, more are struggling to find the right talent compared to last year.

Almost 60% of the 400 companies questioned believed that a shortage of engineers and technicians would be a threat to their business, while 44% said that new recruits do not meet their expected levels of skills.

Over half of employers in the sector are calling for greater links with schools and universities, to help change the perception of engineering among young people, with 30% complaining that school leavers don’t have enough practical experience, and 25% believing they don’t have adequate technical knowledge.

More employers are snubbing external training in favour of in-house compared to last year, according to the report. However, there has been a significant drop in formal, technical and soft skill training courses since 2013 – 13% of employers are not offering any training support this year, compared to 2% last year.

Gender diversity in the industry still remains a problem, with women making up just 6% of the workforce – a figure that has not improved much since 2008. Yet despite this, 43% are not taking any steps to address workplace diversity.

“Promoting engineering to women is particularly important given how few currently work as engineers, so it’s disappointing to see that so many employers are taking no real action to improve diversity,” said Nigel Fine, IET chief executive.

“They need to take urgent steps to improve recruitment and retention of women, for example by promoting flexible and part-time working, together with planned routes of progression that can accommodate career breaks.

“There also needs to be deeper engagement between employers and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy.”

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