Skills shortfall 'serious'

Paul Boughton
The results of a new survey carried out on behalf of education and training distributor KnowledgePoint add fuel to the debate over engineering skills shortages at a time of high unemployment. Almost half (48 per cent) of the engineering design professionals polled see skills shortfalls in their industry sector as serious - with 48 per cent also believing that the current education system is making the problem worse.
Recently, engineering industry commentators have been discussing whether there really are skills shortages when there are thousands of engineers out of work. The situation suggests that it is more a shortage of the right skills and this is not being addressed by the education system.
The survey, by One Poll on behalf of KnowledgePoint was designed to gauge the importance of certification qualifications to design and engineering professionals. A good majority (59 per cent) of respondents thought it was important to have certification qualifications on key design and engineering products and solutions. However, disappointingly, only half said that their organisation actively encouraged them to pursue these qualifications, with 51 per cent claiming that they would be interested in pursuing certification themselves. Only 32 per cent of those surveyed had already taken certification exams.
Not surprisingly, when the results are broken down by age, 71 per cent of designers and engineers in the 35 – 54 age range said they thought certification was important compared to just 51 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds. 57 per cent of the older age range blamed the current education system for skill shortages as opposed to 44 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds. These figures are indicative of the fact that older engineers with traditional skills, feel more vulnerable in the jobs market than younger students and professionals.
A recent report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) estimates that the UK needs over 31,000 new graduate engineers every year for the next five years to meet industry demand in 2017.

“However, there is no doubt that many engineers find their skills outdated; sometimes even as soon as they come onto the jobs market,” says Graeme Philips, Autodesk Program Manager EMEA at KnowledgePoint.
“Achieving certification on key products can help professionals develop a contemporary knowledge and understanding and gain significant advantage in the jobs market.”
Other key findings of the KnowledgePoint survey include:
* Employers said the main benefits of certification are: the ability to validate the skills and knowledge of staff (29 per cent); enhance productivity (26 per cent) with the suggestion that the opportunity to become certified played a part in employee engagement ringing true with only 4 per cent.

* 43 per cent thought that there was a lifelong appetite for learning among designers and engineers.

* Broadly, men were more positive about certification than women; 59 per cent said it was important, compared to 49 per cent of women.

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