Nearly two thirds of UK engineers believe the country will cease to be an engineering world leader

Paul Boughton

More than three quarters (76 per cent) of British engineers lack confidence in the government’s action to encourage innovation in the UK, according to the annual Confidence Index from Matchtech, the UK’s engineering recruitment agency. That figure is up two per cent from last year’s survey.

The Confidence Index, which polled more than a thousand British engineers, indicates a growing lack of confidence in government and industry plans for ensuring the continuance of the UK engineering industry as a world leader

However, the engineering industry has acknowledged government attempts to address the issue. The survey recorded an 11 per cent increase in government policy confidence (58 per cent), following several high profile announcements in 2013 of infrastructure sector investment and the need to encourage more STEM skilled graduates.

The results showed that nearly two thirds of engineers (63 per cent) believe the UK would cease to be a world leader in engineering in the future, whilst over half (58 per cent) of British engineers said they would be willing to move abroad, painting a worrying picture for the fate of the engineering talent pool here in the UK.

Keith Lewis, managing director of Matchtech, commented: “Whilst the UK engineering industry is continuing to experience further growth and a number of major projects, it is concerning to see that those within the industry continue to feel doubtful about their future here in the UK.

"The UK has historically been known as an engineering powerhouse, creating and producing many exciting and ground breaking projects which are admired the world over. Our engineering sector is very much thriving and across the UK we are also witnessing businesses of all sizes paving the way in innovation. However, a high level of confidence in the industry from the engineers themselves is vital so that we are not held back by losing some of our best talent to other countries.

"We have an ageing workforce that we must continually engage with in order to promote our key engineering successes; we must showcase the very best engineering minds in the UK. It will be these minds that help inspire the future generation of UK engineers and who will strive to promote the engineering sector as a career of choice.”

Matchtech hosted a roundtable discussion on 22 November to discuss the Confidence Index findings with a range of industry experts, chaired by Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK. The outcomes of the discussion, including recommendations for what government, industry and engineering bodies need to do in order to secure the future of the engineering industry, will be published in a report at the beginning of 2014.

Paul Jackson said of this year’s Confidence Index: “The survey of engineers registered with Matchtech highlights a gap in perceptions, which is certainly something to address. As the engineering sector continues to grow, creating increased demand for engineers with the right level of skills, engineers have cause for optimism. The increased confidence in government policy parallels government support, such as recent investments made following the Perkins review. Higher expectations of employment are also good to see as 1.86 million additional skilled engineers are needed to meet demand by 2020.”

Other significant findings from this year’s survey include:

* Overall confidence in government policy towards the engineering industry has increased. 58 per cent of respondents say they are confident or very confident, compared to 47 per cent in the 2012 survey;

* More engineers are confident about securing future employment in the UK engineering industry. 27.5 per cent of UK engineers are not confident of their UK job prospects, dropping from 30 per cent in the 2012 survey;

* There has been a small decrease in the proportion of engineers who believe that the UK will not be a world leader in engineering in the future. The survey revealed 63 per cent of respondents believe this, down from 67 per cent in 2012;

* More engineers this year feel that the state of the British economy is negatively affecting the industry as a whole. Fifty four per cent compared to 44% from the previous year’s survey;

* Salary confidence has marginally improved. Two thirds (66 per cent) of UK engineers feel that their income is competitive in the wider industry sphere  – up from 63 per cent in last year’s survey.

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