Insights from a new report by EngineeringUK, a not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the engineering community to inspire tomorrow’s engineers, suggest the UK could be approaching a net zero skills shortage.
The net zero workforce report is an analysis of almost 30 research reports from across the engineering sector into the green jobs and engineering skills needed to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy. It reveals neither a consistent understanding of the future demand for engineering and technical skills needed at a national level to meet net zero targets by 2050, nor of the implications for those coming through Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) secondary and tertiary education.
It recommends that if government is to deliver on its carbon reduction targets it needs to get better at understanding the number of future green jobs and skills of people working in the sectors crucial to achieving the UK’s net zero commitments.
To have a workforce that’s ready to respond to the climate crisis, there need to be people with the right engineering skills and other STEM backgrounds. The report highlights there is no ‘back-casting’ being undertaken to understand whether we have the necessary numbers of young people acquiring STEM qualifications at secondary and tertiary education levels to tackle these challenges. For example, only 1 of the research papers included in this analysis mentioned STEM A Levels.
Mike Hardisty, Head of Environmental Sustainability at EngineeringUK, said: “It’s clear that we could be sleep-walking towards a net zero engineering skills shortage without knowing how big the skills and educational gaps are and where they are. We need to change that to ensure that the right policies are in place to address this. The Unit for Future Skills would appear to be a good starting point to act as a hub to guide government on workforce issues like a producing a regular national labour forecast.
“To address the climate crisis, there are issues within our education system that need to be tackled. For example, we need more young people to take STEM subjects at school and in further education, but we are lacking the teachers and the infrastructure to make this happen.
“More needs to be done to encourage and enable young people across the UK to take up STEM-based qualifications with a view to tackling the climate crisis – if we don’t have enough young people studying chemistry and physics now, for example, it could lead to a shortage of electrical and chemical engineers, which means we will not have the necessary skills in the future workforce.”