In 2014, the engineering and manufacturing sector provided an estimated £455.6 billion to the UK Gross Domestic Product, making up 27% of the total. It is one of the biggest economic sectors in Britain, with a job total of 5.7 million (19% of employment in the UK).
But for the sector to continue to grow, it needs to build a future in the younger generation. After all, it is this generation that will pick up the work when the current workforce begins to retire.
Luckily, the forecast is positive — in 2016, over half of 11-16 year olds stated they would think about a career in engineering, which is a much improved figure compared to 41% in 2012. It’s likely that this positive change is down to teachers and parents; 96% of teachers said they would encourage a career in engineering to their pupils, and 75% of parents said they would be pleased with their children taking a career path in the sector.
To explore this rising trend further, and to look into the future of manufacturing and engineering, plastic injection moulding specialists Omega Plastics investigates.
A fall in higher education
Despite the industry’s strengths, it is experiencing a downturn in the number of graduates. The future forecast predicts that we will need 265,000 skilled entrants per year to meet the demand for engineering enterprises until 2024. However, currently, we are experiencing a shortage of 20,000 graduates.
But the downturn already seems to be bouncing back; there has been almost 5% growth in the number of engineering course applicants in the last 12 months, where other subjects have experienced only a 2.7% rise. Engineering courses have seen gains across all subjects except electrical and electronic. Likewise, 71% of those applicants entering a first degree in engineering and technology are from UK origin.
The degree completion rate for engineering students is also notable, with many graduates successfully gaining a job in the sector after finishing their course. 68% of UK first degree engineering graduates are in full-time work six months after graduation and 84% are in full-time work three years after graduation, with only 2% unemployed.
The engineering and manufacturing technologies sector saw 74,000 apprenticeships starting out in the 2016/2017 period, which lifted them up as one of the five most popular apprenticeship sectors. In fact, they have remained in the fourth position since 2010.
Sadly, a bright beginning doesn’t always last, as nearly a third of UK apprentices aren’t seen through to completion. Overall success rate for apprenticeships has taken a decline to around 68.9% when compared to 2010 when it was at 76.4%. So, what do the figures look like for engineering and manufacturing? Is the decline apparent here too?
58,000 engineering apprenticeships were achieved in England in 2014/15, with 42% of those achieved being at or above Level 3. However, despite no official figures, we can assume that the 2016/17 success rate figures for engineering apprenticeships has continued to rise now that there are over a quarter of a million workplaces offering apprenticeship programmes, a 50% increase over the past five years. Furthermore, four out of five manufacturing employers are reported to be planning to recruit manufacturing and engineering apprentices in the next year.
The UK is home to 650,000 engineering firms and this number is only set to grow. It is safe to predict then that the need for skilled workers will only increase in line with this. Improving the perception of the industry is vital to the continuous success of the industry, as well as appropriate training. However, if the figures discussed here are anything to judge by, the engineering and manufacturing sectors don’t have much to worry about in this department.