My colleagues did some research that revealed over half of engineering jobs advertised require applicants to have a degree to fill the position, with just 1% highlighting the value of an apprenticeship, according to research carried out by my own organisation, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
We found that 66% of jobs advertised stipulated a degree as a pre-requisite to be eligible to apply for the position. While degrees are highly valuable for future engineers, the industry must review its recruitment criteria to identify and publicise the value of apprenticeships and professional qualifications as well.
With the imminent rise in university tuition fees, industry must highlight all the options available to those considering a career in engineering, but may have ruled out the university route.
Recent statistics from UCAS revealed a 15% decline in university applications from UK-born students for 2012 entry. This further demonstrates the need for companies to begin seeking alternative learning routes when recruiting qualified engineers to fill vacancies.
There is still a high demand for skilled engineers and technicians, but companies could do better when it comes to seeking talent. Apprenticeships are held in high esteem by the industry and companies need to do more to demonstrate the great prospects that come with a career in engineering and to make it known that the graduate route is not the only way to achieve this.
In the IET's most recent annual Skills & Demand in Industry Survey, 43% of organisations anticipated that they would employ more apprentices in 4-5 years' time. This is positive news and more engineering companies should look to do the same.
A recent study by the Engineering Council showed that 88% of companies in this sector encourage employees to obtain professional qualifications through work-based learning. We recommend that these companies extend this approach to the recruitment stage.
We have been involved in implementing a new flexible pathway to becoming a professional engineer called Engineering Gateways. This route allows people to qualify without being forced to leave employment and so take a large financial risk.
If this option of obtaining a professional qualification is brought to the forefront, then we are more likely to succeed in achieving the right number of future engineers that the UK requires.