European countries have a shortage of engineers and the United Kingdom is no exception. There are many reasons for this shortfall, but one of the major causes is that engineering finds it hard to appeal to young people thinking about their future. This does not have to be the case.
I joined VINCI Energies in 1991, moving to the UK business in 2010, and in that time one thing has been constant – the challenge we and our customers face in finding people interested in the engineering sector and with the right engineering skills.
In their latest report on the state of engineering, EngineeringUK estimate that 124,000 people are needed to meet demand for core engineering roles every year – but that the UK is falling up to 59,000 short.
There are many reasons for this shortfall, but one of the major causes is that engineering finds it hard to appeal to young people thinking about their future. One cause is that engineering as a career is often stereotyped, and many students feel they don’t fit. Part of the solution to this is to challenge misconceptions about engineering careers.
To give credit where it’s due, institutions and organisations like EngineeringUK and the Royal Academy of Engineering recognised the problem several years ago, and their action is starting to pay off.
Our values are essential to our offer to people starting their careers in engineering
“Year of Engineering”
For example, the Government has declared that 2018 is the Year of Engineering in the United Kingdom, and taken steps to boost the appeal of engineering. The Year of Engineering also promoted this year’s Big Bang Fair, held in Birmingham. The Big Bang Fair is the UK’s leading fair for the engineers and scientists of the future. In 2018 it drew more than 70,000 students. In 2009, during the first edition, only 6,500 students attended.
There are other signs of growing interest in engineering. Over the last ten years, the number of engineering graduates, across all disciplines, has grown by 27 %. However, there is still much more to do, especially to attract women into engineering degrees and careers. The challenge, across the board, is to turn this surge of interest into interesting and rewarding careers in engineering.
Successfully tackling this challenge is central to VINCI Energies as a business, and we take the search for the best and brightest new engineers – and developing them – very seriously.
Our values are essential to our offer to people starting their careers in engineering. We trust and empower our employees from day one, and expect people to take on responsibility for projects from the start.
Innovation and entrepreneurship also lie at the heart of our business, and employees quickly gain the opportunity to work with the latest technologies and techniques in tackling business challenges. This helps our employees build up their professional experience.
Recruiting and retaining
This approach means we are better able to help keep people in our business at VINCI Energies, and in engineering in general.
To attract people into the business, we have brought in a new Modern Apprenticeship Scheme, a Graduate Advancement Programme and dozens of internship opportunities in all our Business Units, resulting in a sharp increase in the number of people joining us as they begin their careers. All of these have already made a huge contribution to our business, and in return, we make a huge contribution to their development.
We also recognise there is more to be done to ensure the pipeline of future engineers remains open. To this end, we work with the WMG Academy in Coventry and Solihull, and are commissioning work which offers year 11 pupils the chance to work on a ‘design and make’ project that contributes 50 % towards a GCSE Award in Systems & Control.
This approach to attracting and retaining engineering talent has worked for us, and as the businesses we work with adopt their own approaches to address this challenge, we can see a bright future for engineering.