If Britain’s engineering skills shortage continues to grow rapidly year on year it could be impossible to bridge the gap unless companies act now by investing in the future workforce.

Recent studies suggest that the UK currently has an annual shortfall of around 55,000 engineers, yet employees are crying out for more skilled and qualified engineers. According to a new report from jobsite CV-Library, almost half of recruiters (49.9%) believe that engineering roles are the hardest to fill and 65% admit to having difficulties finding the right candidates.

Many firms assume that school leavers, graduates and even apprentices are under skilled and therefore too much of a liability, but despite the industry’s concerns about the competence of their up and coming workforce, at least 50% of engineering firms do not offer work experience placements.

The core questions remain; how do we find young people interested in engineering jobs and what is it about engineering that is causing this shortfall?

Some companies are trying to revitalise engineering apprenticeships by opening their doors to a younger workforce in order to safeguard the future of their business. One such company is SCX, a Sheffield-based national service provider of crane maintenance, inspection and repairs. To sustain the growth of their business, SCX has developed a tailored apprenticeship scheme. All apprenticeships include a professional mentoring programme and the enrolment of new recruits at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The new training facility provides practical and academic training to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry. It is seen as a provider of choice for many employers including large organisations such as Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Tata Steel and National Grid, offering cutting-edge technology including virtual reality welding machines and robotics.

Ray Fletcher, Director of SCX said, “We wanted to create a steadfast career path for budding engineers and nurture their abilities through industry-leading facilities and education. The AMRC Training Facility offers qualifications all the way up to Level 5 (foundation degree) so it provides a better structure for apprentices as they can complete all their education in one place. Apprenticeships help to create an infrastructure of skilled people to satisfy our plans for growth and ensure that we have a process in place to meet demands for the future.”

Under the new four-year SCX apprenticeship scheme, recruits spend the first six months at the AMRC enroled in intensive college training five days a week. Following the initial 26 week period, apprentices then work on the job with SCX four days a week with a one day-release to complete their studies. 

“We assign a different engineer as a mentor to our apprentices every few months in order to provide them with a rounded skill set. All our mentor engineers volunteer for the role; they are all keen to pass their wealth of knowledge, experience and skills on to our apprentices,” said Fletcher.

There is currently a big skills crisis in British engineering but through the work of organisations such as SCX and the AMRC, there is a good chance that this will eventually be tackled. More companies within the engineering sector need to realise the importance of apprenticeships and the benefits of a young and enthusiastic workforce.