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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