Half of new engineering recruits lack the right skills

Dec 22, 2021

The annual skills survey from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has revealed that less than half of new engineering recruits have either the necessary technical or soft skills needed for work within the industry. The institution expressed concern that ‘the UK skills crisis will keep growing unless government and industry take action’.

The IET carries out this annual skills survey of engineering employers in the UK. In 2021, it focused on the current skills challenges employers are facing, identified barriers to building supply of the needed skills, and the skills that will be needed in the future. The skills gap is still a concern with more than half reporting shortages in skills within their own workforces.

The last year has been particularly challenging for engineering employers. Disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected businesses of all sizes with some staff switching to working from home, some becoming ill and having to self-isolate, and others being furloughed or made redundant, not to mention site closures and decreases in sales.

This report breaks down the results of the survey into 5 categories, exploring the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit, skills shortages, recruitment difficulties, sustainability strategies and new entrants to the workforce. It also includes key recommendations to ensure that current and future workforce needs are met.

Key findings from the report

The impact of missing skills means 45% of companies who see a skills shortage within young people provide additional training for apprentices/graduates who are new to the industry, whereas 25% simply recruit fewer apprentices and graduates as a result. 71% of the UK engineering workforce who are experiencing internal skills gaps say it is down to missing engineering or technical skills.

Almost all (96%) engineering employers who had identified a skills shortage within general applicants say that this skills deficit impacts their business in some way. The most common impacts of a skills shortage amongst applicants are around the recruitment pathway, with 50% facing difficulty recruiting and 47% making recruitment timelines longer.

A lack of recruitment from a diverse talent pool may also be fuelling the problem, with only a third of businesses taking action to improve the diversity of their workforce across gender (33%) or ethnicity (30%).

When asked what support businesses need from the government to improve skills nationally, more funding for apprenticeships came out on top (54%), with more support to train or reskill in priority areas (51%) and better careers advice and guidance in schools and colleges (49%) next in line.

The IET’s Skills and Demand in Industry Report 2021 is available on the IET website.

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