Gap year: bridging the skills gap in engineering

skills gap in STEM
© iStock/TommL

In an effort to address the UK’s engineering skills gap, Lloyds Bank has announced further investment in its Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC), bringing the bank’s total funding of the centre to £10 million over 10 years.

The AMTC, which trains apprentices and qualified engineers, was set up in 2015 to narrow the UK’s skills gap in engineering fields. In addition to providing a burgeoning apprenticeship scheme, the centre provides further development programmes for professional engineers to hone their skills and gain specialist training.

A May 2018 study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that the growing gap between numbers of roles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is costing UK businesses £1.5 billion annually in recruitment, short-term staffing and training expenses.

89 per cent of British STEM businesses had difficulty hiring staff with the necessary skills in the last year, leading to a shortfall of over 173,000 workers. 2018 was declared by the UK government to be the “Year of Engineering”, as part of a campaign to increase uptake of training and reduce the skills gap.

Government figures show the engineering sector would need to recruit around 186,000 skilled engineers each year until 2024 in order to gain enough candidates to reduce the skills gap.

Member States across the European Union are experiencing similar bottlenecks in engineering roles, particularly in more practical fields such as mechanical, civil and electrical engineering. Newer fields such as software systems engineering or calibration engineering broadly have more roles to fill, but a wider array of candidates with whom to fill them.

The skills gap becomes drastically wider in the case of Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates (BAME) and women. A European Commission study of women in the digital age showed only 24 out of every 1000 female university graduates had degrees in subjects related to information and computer technology (ICT); and only a quarter of female ICT graduates would go on to work in the digital sector.

The AMTC reported an increased number of female and BAME apprentices since its inception. 19 percent of AMTC apprentices are female, while the national average is 4 per cent. Meanwhile 26 per cent of apprentices at AMTC are BAME, in comparison with the national average of 11 per cent.

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