The engineering skills gap has quickly become one of the major problems facing the engineering and manufacturing industries. The 2017 Engineering UK: The State of Engineering report indicated an annual shortage of at least 20,000 skilled employees. Additionally, the report forecasted that 186,000 skilled engineers will be needed every year from now until 2024 to meet the manufacturing industry’s increasing requirements.
The term “skills gap” is used to describe the disparity between the skills required to carry out specific jobs and the skills the workforce actually possess. This applies to both current and potential employees.
A study by the Hays Global Skills Index showed an alarming decline in the availability of skilled engineering and manufacturing workers over a period of 5 years. During this time, the industrial skill gap increased by 14%. This rate is only expected to increase over the next few years.
So how does the skills gap affect organizations looking to innovate? What impact does this alarming trend have on engineering and manufacturing? What are its major causes and solutions?
Major Causes of the Skills Gap in Engineering and Manufacturing
-Impediments to Valuable Training: A report published by the Department for Education found that there is an insufficient amount of specialist teachers in all school subjects related to engineering. It also cited the high cost of delivering up-to-date engineering training a major factor contributor to the lack of new talent entering the field.
(Listen to learn how Clemson University is addressing the skills gap in engineering and manufacturing)
-High Tuition Fees: Colleges and universities play a crucial role in teaching students the skills they need to thrive across a number of industries. However, high tuition fees charged are a major setback to potential applicants. In England, for example, rising annual tuition fees has resulted in about a 7.7% fall in STEM course applicants.
-Aging and Retirement: A significant percentage of the current manufacturing workforce consists of people born in the Baby Boomer generation (between 1946 and 1964). As these workers entire retirement, they carry with them the skills and expertise they’ve amassed through both their education and experiences. With few skilled workers to replace them, filling these job openings becomes incredibly difficult.
The Effects of the Skills Gap on Engineering and Manufacturing
-Increased Efforts to Recruit and Retain Industrial Talent: Due to the shortage of recruits with the necessary skills and experience, manufacturers will have a hard time securing the services of skilled workers. This can force manufacturers to hire workers with little to no experience, resulting in production difficulties and errors.
-Lags in Production: As the shortage in skilled labor persists, engineering and manufacturing will increasingly experience lags in production. The long-term effect of this trend is a negative impact on companies’ profit margin.
-Increase in Revenue Loss: The skills gap brings about a constant need to seek out or create platforms that develop the required skills and experiences in workers. This can only be done through proper funding, which in turn reduces profits.
Understanding the cause and effects will help you, as an innovator, bridge the skills gap when planning your innovations. For more information on other causes, effects, and solutions download our e-book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Positioning Your Firm to Thrive”.
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