As many as 62% of engineering employers say graduates don’t have the right skills for today’s workplace, according to the 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). To address these growing concerns over skills gaps in the engineering workforce, particularly among graduates and school leavers, 91% of companies agreed that to improve the supply of engineers and technicians, more employers need to provide work experience for those in education or training.
In response, the IET has launched a new campaign entitled ‘Engineering Work Experience for All’ to rally employers, universities, Government and students to make a range of different, quality work experience opportunities more widespread.
The skills report is based on extended telephone interviews with over 400 engineering employers across the UK. While there is some optimism from employers, concerns about skills gaps and diversity issues, the role of education and a lack of experienced engineering staff all come under the spotlight. Key findings include that 52% of employers are currently seeking new engineering and technology recruits with 76% agreeing that compelling all engineering and technology companies to provide work experience would improve the pool of engineering talent. In terms of diversity, the report finds that 63% of businesses don’t have gender diversity initiatives in place (increased from 57% in 2015) and 40% of employers agree that their organisation could do more to recruit people from diverse backgrounds.
Naomi Climer, IET immediate Past-President, said: “As we are facing an engineering shortfall in the next decade and some uncertainty around skills following Brexit, it is more important than ever that we develop the next generation of ‘home grown’ engineering and technology talent. Employers and educators must continue to strengthen their working relationships to ensure that the work experience they offer is designed with the skills gaps in mind.”
A separate report by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) confirmed that work experience gives students the opportunity to gain transferable employability skills and a better chance of securing employment upon graduation. Some businesses use it as a recruitment tool. NCUB surveyed 34 businesses about their practices and processes around offering work experience. Key findings include that it is used as a way of finding and nurturing talent early on and some businesses also use it as a way to offer opportunities to less advantaged students. Overall the organisations surveyed rely on their relationships with universities to source undergraduates for work experience.