Readers taking part in The Engineer's recent poll on engineering recruitment said that increasing salaries would be the best way to address the sector’s well known skills issues
The need to boost the number of skilled people entering industry is, as we’re constantly reminded, one of industry’s most pressing issues. In its annual state of the industry report Engineering UK identified a need to fill up to 124,000 core engineering roles every year at a time when there’s an annual shortfall of around 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians.
There are numerous ongoing efforts to shift these worrying statistics, from major initiatives aimed at attracting underrepresented groups such as women and people from black and minority ethnic communities to literally hundreds of projects aimed at attracting and inspiring the next generation of engineers.
Yet despite all of this, the figures are proving stubbornly resistant to change.
In last week’s poll The Engineer asked for readers' views on this perennial problem, and specifically how they thought engineering recruitment issues could be most effectively targeted.
The most popular choice amongst the 363 respondents taking part was improvement to engineering pay, with 41 per cent of respondents agreeing that action here would have a major impact.
Precision People, a UK firm who specialise in contractors recruitment as well as recruiting to many different engineering roles, said this was indicative of the feelings of candidates they spoke to on a regular basis.
Indeed, many of those commenting felt that engineers are paid well below for the odds when compared to other skilled professions. “The pay scales need to be commensurate with other skilled professional careers (lawyers, doctors, architects etc.),” wrote intellimouse.
The next most popular suggestion was action on promoting other routes into engineering, with 20 per cent of respondents selecting this option. The least popular options were a focus on demographic gaps which was selected by nine per cent of the sample group, and the suggestion that older engineers should be persuaded to delay retirement (which received just four per cent of the vote).
Another recurring theme amongst the comments was a need to improve the status of engineering, and to do more to shift perceptions away from the “oily-rags” image that some readers felt was still off putting. “Joe public still view engineering as a ‘dirty hands job’. Financial incentives would help but I think changing the Status of the engineer would do more good. This I believe can only come about by having protected status like doctors and lawyers.” Wrote Chris Oates-Miller. “Until the public at large, the media and the politicians understand what we do and how they would be screwed without us, status and recruitment will remain a problem,” agreed Richard C.
Meanwhile, a relatively high number of respondents – 18 per cent of the sample – selected none of the above, perhaps suggesting that other options which weren’t included, such as a focus on retaining engineers considering a move to more lucrative sectors should be a priority.
What seems more likely though is that readers considering this incredibly complex issue realise that there is no real silver bullet, and that to get to grips with its skills issues Industry needs to be addressing the problem from multiple directions.