COLUMN: Doing our bit to address engineering skills shortage, by Brian Maylan

A career in engineering is one of the most exciting that people can have.

Engineers work in sectors as diverse as aeronautical, defence and power-generation, to manufacturing and automotive.

They are highly-skilled, well-qualified people who specialise in disciplines including mechanical, electrical, polymer, and motor-vehicle.

They innovate and find solutions to a range of problems.

UK engineering enjoys a world-leading reputation and has been responsible for knowledge-advancement and innovations that have had an impact on everybody’s lives, with notable examples being MRI scanners and supersonic flight.

The sector is vital to the nation’s economic wellbeing, contributing an estimated £486 billion to UK GDP in 2015. It also saw a seven per cent rise in the number of engineering enterprises, while 1.74 jobs were supported by every person employed in the industry.

So why then, if engineering jobs are so exciting and employers are training the next generation of skilled workers through apprenticeships, is there a severe shortage of engineers in this country?

Many think the problem lies in the way that parents and young people perceive engineering, coupled with a lack of understanding about the breadth and scope of career opportunities available.

It’s claimed the country will need to find 182,000 new engineers each year up to 2022. Yet current figures show a shortfall of around 69,000 per year, which limits our ability to compete in developmental projects and complete schemes in areas such as transport and energy.

To help tackle the skills and recruitment shortage, West Nottinghamshire College invested £5.8m in a state-of-the-art engineering innovation centre in 2014.

Based in Sutton, the centre offers provision in almost all disciplines including electrical and mechanical, motor-vehicle maintenance and repair, and fabrication and welding.

It has further enhanced our first-class education and training facilities while supporting our key focus on developing technical skills across-the- board, both theoretical and practical, from entry-level to higher education.

Provision is available for students on a full-time basis, and on day or block-release for apprentices.

Full-time students follow a programme which consists of developing technical competency, work experience and English and maths.

Work experience routinely leads to permanent employment at the end of their course, with other options including further training through an apprenticeship or studying a degree course at university.

The national shortage of skilled engineers means there are excellent prospects for young people that are keen to enter the sector. Every engineer requires education and training – and we are providing the springboard to individuals seeking a rewarding future in the profession, while supporting employers wishing to advance the careers of their apprentices and current workforce.