THEMES – SKILLS
Manufacturing is vital to the economy and could provide the productivity boost the UK needs. But considerable concerns remain over skills – despite outreach activities improving thesector’s image, writes Paul Jackson
The 2016 Engineering UK State of Engineering report tells us that the contribution made by manufacturing industry and by engineers is invaluable. Engineering drives the economy, drives productivity and drives employment – both directly and indirectly. Turnover stands at £1.2 trillion, productivity is 68 per cent higher than for the retail and wholesale sector, and the UK’s 609,000 engineering companies employ more than 5.5 million people. Engineering generated £445.6 billion GDP for the UK. That’s 27.1 per cent of the total UK GDP (£1,683bn). Engineering sectors produce the majority of the nation’s exports, with manufacturing accounting for 44 per cent of UK exports.
For every £1 generated in engineering, £1.45 is generated elsewhere in the economy. Manufacturing makes up 10 per cent of UK gross value added (GVA) and 54 per cent of UK exports, and directly employs more than 2.5 million people. This strong economic performance suggests the industry is in rude health and prospects are good, so why is there concern within the industry about its long term future? It’s because we know we continue to struggle to attract bright new talent to diversify our workforce – and we continue to fall short in terms of showcasing career prospects in manufacturing and engineering.
MANUFACTURING CAN BOOST PRODUCTIVITY
At a time when the political discourse is dominated by talk of how Britain will extract itself from the EU and what this means for the country’s economy, productivity is at the forefront of people’s minds.
When it comes to boosting UK productivity, the engineering sector and manufacturing in particular, is in a very strong position. The trend for reshoring manufacturing has strengthened. Over the past two years, reshoring has added £600 million to the UK economy and created approximately 10,000 new jobs. Engineering is an area recognised by the Migration Advisory Service as a priority area. The newly added job titles on its shortage list relate to the aerospace, railway, electronics, mining, automotive manufacturing and design, and the civil nuclear industries. It is the MAC’s view that this reflects increasing demand for specialist engineering skills continuing to outstrip potential supply.
Businesses across the engineering industries report widespread difficulties in recruiting people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills. The shortfalls have been consistently high and rising. Close to a third of firms (32 per cent) this year reported
difficulties in meeting their need for such staff (up from 22 per cent in 2013).
Crucial manufacturing supply chains are particularly hard hit by these growing shortages. There is an urgent need for action to address intensifying STEM skill shortfalls. The CBI calculates that by increasing public and private R&D spending and tackling the STEM skills shortage to improve UK business supply chains, we could boost the manufacturing sector by 500,000 jobs – and add £30 billion to the UK economy by 2025.
GOVERNMENT COMMITS TO APPRENTICESHIPS
Government has committed to a challenging target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. There is evidence that manufacturers, who have historically outperformed other sectors in this area, are taking on the challenge. Two-thirds of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months. We know, however, that in manufacturing a third or more of firms report difficulties in recruiting at every level, including people to train through STEM-related apprenticeships (33 per cent). There is a hidden challenge of
progression: From a cohort of 1,000 11-year olds, 111 boys and 101 girls will get GCSE physics A*-C grades. Of those, only 44 boys and 13 girls will go on to study for and attain A-level physics A*-C grades. Only 33 people of all ages will then go on to undertake an engineering-related Advanced Apprenticeship.
In 2015 27,195 level 3 apprenticeships in Engineering were achieved, a shortfall of 28,000. That means that, as an industry, we need to double the number of apprenticeships. It is set against this background that EngineeringUK, working in partnership with organisations across the engineering community, is working to inform and inspire young people about careers in engineering.
And we are starting to see some progress: the trend over the last five years is that the perceived desirability of a career in engineering is up to 43% from 27% in 2011 amongst 11 to 14-year olds.
Our activities are driven by a robust evidence base, as well as carrying out detailed statistical analysis of essential information about the engineering industry and its place in the UK economy. Through research into public perceptions of engineers and engineering, we monitor and evaluate all our activity to see what works.
THE BIG BANG EXPLODES
The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, led by EngineeringUK and delivered in partnership with more than 200 organisations, has grown from 6,500 visitors in 2009 to 73,000 in 2016. It is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK, an award-winning combination of exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits and careers information from STEM professionals. Statistics from the Engineers and Engineering Brand Monitor, 2015 (EEBM) show that only 23 per cent girls (11-14) know what to do next to become an engineer. For girls who attend The Big Bang Fair this figures doubles to 49 per cent. Where young people have participated in Tomorrow’s Engineers and/or Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, results are above the UK benchmark. Key Stage 3 students who attended Tomorrow’s Engineers are much more likely to be knowledgeable about what engineers do (50 per cent versus 25 per cent), this includes a large increase among Key Stage 3 female students (43 per cent vs 16 per cent). More than half (51 per cent) of 15 and 16-year-olds said that The Big Bang Fair had motivated them to choose physics as an option when they had the choice, including 38 per cent of female students.
Teachers and good careers advice are critical to ensuring the future supply of suitably skilled individuals for the manufacturing industry. Three in five STEM teachers of 14-19-year-olds have been asked for careers advice about engineering in past year. Only two in five STEM teachers feel confident giving careers advice about engineering. Thirty-four per cent said they are not confident giving this advice. EngineeringUK programmes are starting to reach more schools with better, regional, relevant careers information, and
The EEBM showed that a new emerging trend impacting career choice is pay. Young people are more concerned about the potential earnings form a career choice than other factors, such as enjoyment. The average graduate starting salary for engineering and technology graduates is £27,079, and for manufacturing and production engineering the mean starting salary is £28,883. The vision of the Tomorrow’s Engineers programme is to create a national network of employers, already 160-strong, working locally to reach one million young people every year with effective careers interventions from STEM employers. It brings a strategic approach to schools engagement, building links with industry and schools. This greater coordination means employer outreach extends to where the need and potential impact are greatest.
Tomorrow’s Engineers works centrally with national employers and locally with Employer Support Managers based regionally, working with employers to help make their outreach more inclusive, more impactful and more tailored to local requirements. Tomorrow’s Engineers shares good practice, encourages peer-to-peer advice and guidance and respects the distinct needs and approaches of individual companies, institutions and schools.
CAREERS INSPIRATION FOR THE FUTURE SUPPLY OF ENGINEERS
In addition to the need to double the number of Advanced Apprenticeship achievements in engineering and manufacturing technology, construction planning and the built environment, and information and communications technologies, EngineeringUK believes there are crucial steps needed to secure the future supply of engineers needed to meet the demands of employers. We need to provide careers inspiration for all 11-14 year olds. This should include opportunities for every child aged 11-14 to have at least one engineering intervention with an employer. We must highlight high value of STEM skills and promote
diversity of careers in engineering. We know interventions are most impactful if they provide a real life engineering context. We need to ensure that there is support for teachers and careers advisors delivering careers information so they understand the range of modern scientific, technological and engineering career paths, including vocational and technician roles.
Since 2010, we have seen a significant rise from the 38 per cent of the general public who could cite the engineering development of the last 50 years that has had the greatest impact on them, to more than three in five (61 per cent) in 2015.
This improvement in public awareness and understanding of engineering provides us with a useful backdrop against which to work together to ensure that our education system recognises the employer value placed on STEM subjects, and that young people have the opportunity to learn more about the opportunities that a career in 21st century engineering represents.
Paul Jackson is chief executive of EngineeringUK