Dr Hilary Leevers
CEO, Engineering UK
Engineers have a specific skillset and play a vital role in shaping our world, from where we live and how we communicate, to what we do for leisure.
Over a quarter of UK enterprises are involved in engineering in some way, employing more than five and a half million people. Demand for engineering skills is high and will continue to rise in the future. The UK needs tens of thousands more engineering roles to be filled annually.
The current skills gap
There is a critical, numerical shortfall of young people on pathways to fill engineering jobs but simply encouraging more people to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) isn’t enough. Our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion emphasises the need to increase the diversity, as well as the number of young people choosing academic and vocational routes into engineering.
Women are underrepresented within the industry
Gender Disparity in Engineering, a research report we published in 2018, examines female under-representation in an industry where women make up just 12% of the workforce. It reported that only 60% of girls aged 11 to 14 think they could become an engineer if they want to, compared to 72% of boys, and only a quarter of girls say they would ever consider a career in engineering.
Another of our publications examining social mobility reported that while young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds have reasonable access to engineering careers, they do not progress at the same rate as their more advantaged peers.
Businesses play a role in tackling the inbalance
Our analysis suggests that great talent is being lost along engineering pathways, at each educational decision point, leading to an under-representation of girls, women and people from some BAME communities especially. While many of the barriers, like patchy careers advice or unequal access to science-related studies, may seem like problems for policymakers to solve – businesses and the engineering industry still have a huge role to play in inspiring tomorrow’s engineers.
The value of diversity for employers
There’s a compelling business case for the sector to harness and widen its workforce. As well as helping to secure the numbers of engineers and technicians we need – workforce diversity improves innovation, creativity, productivity, resilience and market insight, and should enable more people to benefit from engineering and technology products and services.
Many young people are motivated by the opportunity to address global challenges, such as ensuring access to clean water, sanitation and affordable and sustainable energy, but do not realise how central engineering is to solving these problems.
We believe that all young people should have the opportunity for fulfilling and rewarding careers in engineering.