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UK engineering currently facing the threat of a “skills stalemate”

New research shows engineers suffering from a lack of career progression
UK engineering currently facing the threat of a “skills stalemate”

Engineers in the UK are not being developed to their full potential according to a new study by global professional services company, Towers Watson, in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The report suggests that maximizing the productivity of the current workforce has been overlooked while the industry has instead focused on attracting the next generation to plug the skills gap.

The inaugural UK & Ireland Engineering Workforce Study reveals that employers could do a much better job of engaging and retaining their existing talent.  Just under half of engineers think their company succeeds in holding onto talented individuals. While over 40% of engineers plan to leave their current organization in order to move up the ladder, naming lack of career development and salary as key factors in their decision.

The report indicates that a “forgotten generation” of engineers, who are significantly less engaged, lie at the heart of this issue. In their thirties and typically with line-management responsibilities, 45% believe there are substantial obstacles to doing their job well, compared to 35% of twenty-year olds.

Yves Duhaldeborde, Director, Organisational Surveys and Insights, Towers Watson, said: “Engineers play a pivotal role in ensuring the UK remains competitive and continues to drive innovation. There has been much emphasis on the well-documented skills gap in recent years, which as our research shows, means that the development needs of already-skilled engineers have been neglected.”

“A company’s productivity relies heavily on having an engaged workforce and things like feeling supported by your manager, seeing opportunities to progress and the calibre of one’s colleagues are all vital components in getting your employees to apply themselves and actively contribute to the success of the business.”

The engineering community also highlighted a frustration with the current pace of innovation in the UK, with only a third saying their company does a good job in moving from ideas to implementation.

Alastair Barr, Head of Commercial Development at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “A large segment of the population saying we are slow to market with creative ideas suggests that there is something in the present culture of engineering companies that is holding them back from delivering their full potential. This, in addition to the ‘forgotten generation’ of engineers, would suggest there is an opportunity to improve our talent management. I think we need to give serious thought as an industry to how we equip people with not only the core engineering skills required in today’s economy but also the people skills that allows us to drive up productivity as a whole.”

The research shows that engineers think that managerial, leadership and interpersonal skills will become increasingly important to achieving professional success in the future. A grasp of sustainability issues, along with advanced IT and foreign-language skills, were also cited as key attributes for engineers who want to get to the top.

Image from Towers Watson

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