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Report Highlights Shortage of Technical Skills in UK

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has called for UK businesses and education providers to ensure that more is being done to address the skill levels of technicians and engineers in the UK in light of a report released by the Institute of Engineers and Technicians (IET) which highlighted a significant skills gap in the labour market.
The report itself consisted of a series of in-depth telephone interviews with 400 different employers of engineers and IT staff in the UK and unveiled a number of significant findings:
  • 59% of all companies surveyed stated that a shortage of engineers would represent a threat to their operations in the UK;
  • 44% of employers stated that the IT, engineering and technical staff they employ do not have the level of skill that is required;
  • 30% of employers felt that school leavers do not have enough practical work experience whilst 25% of employers felt that school leavers lacked the technical experience to perform their roles effectively;
  • only 6% of the engineering workforce are women but 43% of companies did not take any specific action to improve diversity within their workforces in the last year, despite calls in the industry and from the government to improve this aspect of the industry; and
  • the number of Level 2 Intermediate apprenticeships has more than doubled since 2013, but the number of Level 4 Higher apprenticeships has remained more or less the same.
The findings of the report are of particular significance after a further survey by UKCES in November 2013 found that nearly two thirds of all students of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) went on to professions outside of their area of study.

Commenting on the latest IET report, assistant director of UKCES Alex Curling said:
"These findings are worrying and highlight the need for employers to ensure they are working hand in hand with education and training providers to offer attractive jobs to skilled, talented young people.

"With such exponential growth in technology it is all too easy for vital technical skills to atrophy if they move away from the field, leaving people struggling to get back in to rapidly evolving industries. Finding ways of helping people who have become 'locked out' of the industry re-enter it could help address the skills shortages described in today's report."

The IET meanwhile has produced a further report consisting of a series of recommendations for employers, schools, the government and the engineering sector to implement in order to address the range of concerns raised in the Report, including plans to establish greater dialogue between businesses and education providers and measures to improve the diversity of the engineering labour force.

Guiding all of the suggestions within this report is one overriding recommendation, namely that: '"there needs to be consistent and better quality engagement between employers and the education system to bridge the skills gap in order to meet the needs of industry and inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians." The IET Report is conducted annually, so observers will have a great opportunity to monitor whether any changes or improvements are developing in the sector over the coming years.
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