Shortage of Mechanical Design Skills
Author: Bernie Vincent
Date Added: 6-Jan-2012
Shortage of mechanical design skills could hamper growth in the engineering market.
Written by Rae Younger, Managing Director of Cognity
To have a high tech economy specializing in advance forms of manufacturing and innovation, the UK desperately requires more skilled engineers. Engineering is of critical importance to the UK economy but the need to bridge the gap between demand and supply of engineers has become ever more pressing.
For some time now, Governments have been warned that an emerging skills gap will undoubtedly have an impact on the UK’s ability to compete with its international counterparts in the race to secure energy markets. As long ago as 1994, the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) was highlighting the demand for and shortage of engineering graduates. Today, young, innovative engineering consultancies are suffering as a result of that predicted skills shortage as they bid to grown their businesses and take on new projects.
According to latest research from the industry body OPITO, oil and gas companies are expected to create around 15,000 new jobs in the UK over the next five years. Despite this, the report also found that more than half of the 144 companies surveyed found that attracting appropriately skilled staff was their number one challenge.
My own engineering consultancy in Aberdeen is actively looking to employ experienced mechanical engineers, designers and analysts who can add value to the company and play a key role in helping achieve projected targets. However getting hold of the right people is now becoming a real issue for many engineering companies across the UK.
In the mid 2000s, figures showed that the numbers of students opting for engineering courses remained almost static at 24,500 with less than half choosing to enter the engineering profession after graduating from University. Less than a decade later, and the repercussions of this alarming statistic are having a devastating knock-on effect to the engineering sector.
So what must be done to stem the tide of stem the tide? Firstly, if the UK is to remain at the forefront of turning knowledge into new services and products for the global energy industry, we need to encourage more collaboration between universities and industry in offering more inspiring engineering degrees with even greater industrial engagement. Secondly, more students must be encouraged to choose these engineering courses and that must begin in schools across the country. Businesses, Government and the education sector must find new, more innovative ways of working together to make sure that a larger pool of talent, both male and female, are recruited into engineering.
We will also have to address the issue of a ‘skills transfer.’ The range of emerging industries such as renewable energy and advanced manufacturing present fantastic opportunities for the UK and the rapid retraining of engineers from other areas of industry which are in decline will be immensely important in exploiting these new engineering sectors. The challenge of transferring experienced engineers’ skills into new industries is another area which requires immediate Government and industry collaboration.
This is a great time to be involved with the engineering sector, particularly as a mechanical or design engineer. Our industry breeds creativity, excitement and immense satisfaction. The design process is an informative and intensive one but research has shown that in addition to engineers’ core technical competencies, it is their own personal attributes, project management abilities and cognitive skills which are all critical to the role.
As a design engineer, you’ll research and develop ideas for new products and production systems as well as improving the performance and efficiency of existing products. As with most engineering jobs, you could work in a variety of industries from oil and gas to consumer goods, and on any project from redesigning a mobile phone to building motorcycle parts from carbon fibre. These are the messages that we need to pass on to young people - from school age through to graduate level – in a bid to develop an keen interest in the profession and plug the skills gap that it is threatening to cripple our industry.
This article was published in the September 2011 edition of Roustabout and has been reprinted on OilCity with the kind permission of Energy International. www.energyinternat.com
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