Warning: Lack of engineers could damage Scottish economy

Ian McConnell, Group Business Editor / 01:03 Tuesday 19 January 2016 / Business

FAILURE to solve the problem of a lack of engineers in Scotland could threaten the country’s economic well-being and the future success of businesses in the sector, MSPs will be warned today.

The cautionary note will be sounded by Nigel Fine, chief executive of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, at a reception at the Scottish Parliament. The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with more than 167,000 members in 127 countries, about 10,000 of them in Scotland.

Mr Fine will tell delegates that 59 per cent of employers in the sector in Scotland believe a shortage of engineers could jeopardise their business.

He will cite worries on the part of 67 per cent of Scottish engineering businesses that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required in today’s technological world.

And he will highlight a need for engineering companies to draw recruits from a wider talent pool.

Mr Fine said: “The engineering sector has a crucial role to play in delivering growth for Scotland, in building Scotland’s capacity to compete in a global market and in shaping Scotland’s ability to cope with pressures on the world’s resources.

“Demand for engineers in Scotland remains high, with supply unable to keep pace and employers continuing to highlight skills shortages as a major concern. That is why stronger and deeper collaboration between employers and academic institutions is needed to agree practical steps to ensure that young people are suitably prepared both academically and practically before they start work.”

He added: “Employers must also recognise the need for workforce diversity and do more to attract recruits from a wider talent pool. This might include looking at other professions, such as medicine and accountancy that have been more successful at attracting a diverse workforce. It also means working with parents and teachers to promote engineering as a creative, rewarding and exciting profession for girls as well as boys.”

Industry body Scottish Engineering has repeatedly highlighted skills shortages as a major issue in the sector.

Its chief executive, Bryan Buchan, noted recently that engineering skills shortages in the central belt had been eased by job losses in the North Sea sector, although he emphasised this was no “panacea”.

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