According to a new report, entitled ‘Is there a Shortage of Scientists?’, a large number of engineering graduates are not currently employed in the field in which they trained.
The study, by professors Emma Smith and Stephen Gorard of Birmingham University, looked at the number of engineering graduates from 2009 who were employed in engineering jobs, in related jobs or in non-graduate jobs.
They found that only 46% of those who graduated with a degree in engineering were in engineering jobs related to their qualifications with six months after graduation. A quarter were working in jobs that did not require degrees and were completely unrelated to their training, such as shop work.
A shortage of jobs or a shortage of skilled workers?
These new findings are in stark contrast to the assertions of many engineering and commercial bodies that there is currently a skills shortage in the field. One of the report’s authors, Prof. Emma Smith, said that: “It is astonishing, in the light of claims of science graduate shortages, that so few new graduates go into related employment. The figures suggest it is not easy or automatic for qualified engineers to get related employment in the UK, despite the purported shortages.”
As an explanation for these disparities, the report suggests that it is, “likely... that all of these scientists are without relevant employment every year because the shortage thesis is wrong and there are no jobs waiting for all of them or because they are ‘dropping out’ having learnt that they do not enjoy their subject areas.”
Many in the industry have hit out at the report however, which they claim is over-simplifying the matter. Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK’s chief executive, told trade magazine Eureka: “The situation is a lot more nuanced than Smith and Gorard suggest. Skill shortages do exist in particular areas, notably in power engineering, petrochemicals, systems engineering and advanced manufacturing.” He added: “Talented students who have the potential to be our future graduate engineers must not be put off by the headline grabbing statistics taken from this research.”
New engineering academy announced
Following hot on the heels of the Birmingham-originated report, it was announced that the city is to have a brand new £15million Engineering Academy, which will function as a university technical college for 14 -19 year olds pursuing careers in engineering and science-based industries.