Tackling the shortage of engineering skills
ICOM’s director Ross Anderson has called for engineering to undergo a makeover if it is to attract more people and meet the needs of the sector in the future. ICOM is the trade association representing the industrial and commercial heating manufacturing sector, and he points out that there are an estimated two vacancies per person in the construction and engineering sector and that one in five engineering graduates is from overseas.
One of his suggestions is the need to attract more women into engineering. He says, ‘Currently only 9% of UK engineering professionals are women, compared to 18% in Spain, 26% in Sweden and 20% in Italy. One of the ways to tackle the impending skills shortage is to attract, train and then retain women.
‘ICOM and its members are working to improve the image of engineering, and we want to attract new recruits from a wide and diverse background. If our industry is to continue to prosper then we must take active steps to address the gender imbalance that currently exists.’
He also wants to make engineering more attractive to school children, noting that ‘experienced talent is being lost and currently we aren’t replacing it in anywhere the numbers we need’.
He says, ‘Evidence shows that school children can be turned off engineering very early in their lives. Engineering is seen as a dirty job, so as an industry we have a responsibility to make it identifiable for young people.
‘Many have little idea of what engineering is or the exciting opportunities and careers open to them should they choose to follow this path.
‘We need to intervene now if we are to stop the “engineering-is-dirty” mind set. We have to work with schools and colleges, change parents’ perceptions and show young people just what engineers contribute to their lives.’
Ross Anderson concludes, ‘Real, live engineers are the best advert for the profession. We need ambassadors for our profession who will help spread the message and help draw people to our cause.