UK's Demand for Engineers Far Exceeds Current Supply

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The UK's oil and gas industry is exasperated by the skills shortage with companies calling for the government to tackle the problem.

The oil and gas industry continues to play a vital role in the United Kingdom’s economy – influencing$33 billion in direct economic contributions an increase of $4 billion compared with 2011, according to Energy UK, a trade association for the industry. The sector also continues to be a large and consistent employer, directly employing 125,000 people in 2012 compared with 90,000 in 2008; while supporting an estimated 539,000 jobs through supply chain activities for a total of 664,000 – or 1 in 45 – UK jobs in 2012.

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Patrick Phelan, Managing Director of Aquaterra Energy

With business confidence and investment in the industry growing, an estimated 20,000 more jobs will be created in the North Sea in 2014, making the skills shortage even more pressing, according to Aquaterra Energy Ltd., an engineering firm. The number of graduate vacancies in the UK is set to increase by 10.2 percent in 2014, stated the Association of Graduate Recruiters, with the biggest growth sectors including energy, banking, Information Technology (IT) and telecommunications.

Moreover, government statistics show that there will be demand for around 87,000 graduate engineers each year for the next 10 years in the UK – but the country is only producing 46,000 engineering graduates every year.

Four out of five manufacturers are experiencing recruitment difficulties, according to EEF, the manufacturers’ organization for UK manufacturing companies; with two-thirds of those saying this is because candidates lack technical skills. This exasperated problem threatens to stifle companies’ growth plans, the organization noted.

“The knowledge that demand for graduate engineers in the UK far exceeds the current supply is a major concern,” stated Patrick Phelan, managing director of Aquaterra Energy. “Small and medium enterprises will find that there just simply aren’t enough graduates to go around. Unless we address this as a priority, the issue will continue into the long-term, with real and lasting negative impacts on our industry.”

The government is trying to tackle the problem by funding more apprenticeships, noted Energy UK. From 2010-11, annual apprentice recruitment increased from 970 to 1,430. While also encouraging more young people and women to choose a career in the industry and investing millions in university facilities and teaching.

But many are questioning if this approach is enough to meet the growing gap between demand for and supply of engineers. The CBI, the UK’s largest business lobby, asked for university fees to be reduced from some science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses, while other groups are pressing the chancellor for more grants to encourage small companies to hire apprentices.


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Richard | May. 15, 2014
It’s this old chestnut again is it? There is NO shortage of engineers. There never has been. There isn’t now. There never will be. Only a shortage of willingness to pay them… I have a flyer in my inbox from an agency informing me of an amazing opportunity here in South East for a chartered engineer with specialisms in fabricated structures and hydraulics, (not oil and gas), and they are willing to go to £33,500 p.a. Strange how the “pay peanuts - get monkeys” approach only applies to the top levels of management isn’t it?

jag | May. 14, 2014
It is a hard industry to get into from another area no body wants to take you on. You need a degree to be entertained but what says that a skilled person cannot do the job that is required .I want to work in this area of oil and gas but its costly and timely .

Doug Sterling | May. 12, 2014
Have the managers running these companies ever heard of the law of supply and demand? Just raise the pay, and the shortage of engineers will disappear. There is only a shortage at wages that are too low.

Insurance | May. 12, 2014
Companies will attract more qualified personnel once they cut out the agencies. If the engineers would see the actual salary the middle guy is taking you will see a change and draw the people you need. Simple economics.

Duncan | May. 12, 2014
The trouble is that a lot of industry is living in the past regarding salary levels for Engineers, hence suffering a double whammy of more Engineers leaving the UK to work abroad (even within the EU !), and the lower salaries offered resulting in less students seeing Engineering as providing a lucrative future. Industry appears to be happy paying large rates to consultants to do the work their staff used to do, while continuing to offering staff pay levels at about 65% of the going market rate. And then they wonder why youngsters do not see Engineering as being a worthwhile career ? Until Engineering companies in the UK bite the bullet and offer salaries which attract the best candidates (EU wide) to apply for their vacant staff positions, this situation will not change. No amount of spin or initiatives will be persuasive enough to make people disbelieve what their eyes and ears are telling them.

Lyster | May. 11, 2014
Its easy to understand why there are not more engineering graduates when the wages for a highly technical and responsible profession and so low.

Peter | May. 11, 2014
I went to unmiversity in 1970, and they were singing the same song back then. I graduated with and Engineering degree and wound up in the oilfield. Although, overall my career has worked out, it has been subject to the blow-hot-blow-cold nature of the oil business. One year companies cant wait to hire, and a year or two later they are laying off as fast as they can. This current boom has gone on for a while, but will it last long enough to give a young engineer today a stable career? History suggests that it wont.

Ron Heffernan | May. 10, 2014
Every Brit in the oil patch has moved elsewhere DUE TO HIGH TAXES.END OF STORY

Glyn | May. 10, 2014
What about expanding recruitment beyond recent graduates? There must be many skilled, hard working professionals out there in struggling industries who would love to retrain as engineers in oil and gas. I myself am looking for an entry level position in the industry but my age and the fact I graduated more than ten years ago is proving to be a barrier.


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