The education system is at risk of stifling economic growth if there isn’t a greater focus on skills based learning, such as work experience, says the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), as GCSE results are revealed across the UK.

Addressing these growing concerns, the latest Skills and Demand in Industry report, published by the IET, confirms that:

  • 68% of employers are worried that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change
  • 62% agree that young people entering today’s workplace do not have the right skills.
  • 91% of companies surveyed went on to agree that more work experience needs to be offered to reduce the growing skills gap.

The IET calls today for more practical learning and development options to be built into the curriculum, but stresses it’s not just the responsibility of schools; employers have a duty to provide work experience for those in education or training to improve the supply of engineers and technicians coming into the industry.

Petra Wilton 100x100Petra Wilton, the Chartered Management Institute’s director of strategy, said:

“While congratulating the thousands of young people collecting their GCSE results, today’s NEET figures show us that far too many will struggle to make the leap from education to the world of work.  As our own research shows that a third of 16 – 21 year-olds aren’t confident about finding a job in the next few years. This is a worrying trend as we consider the UK’s ever-growing skills gap. 

“A new school-to-work syllabus to develop employability, team leadership and management skills could go a long way in helping this transition. Students turning their backs on further and higher education due to high costs need to be made aware of alternative options.  Higher and degree apprenticeships offer a direct route to skilled employment without the prospect of £50,000 of debt.”

MarkDawe 100x100Mark Dawe, AELP’s CEO and former boss of the OCR exams board, said:

"English and maths are important for the whole population but the resits policy is leading to mass failure.  The government should abandon it now and instead focus on Functional Skills being a good alternative.

"Ministers should fund Functional Skills properly if they are genuine about the apprenticeship programme being a quality option for young people and adults."

Alison Carr, IET Director of Policy, said:

"There is deep concern that access to our next generation of work-ready engineers and technicians is being stifled by a lack of work experience options available to young people as part of their studies.

"As we are facing an engineering shortfall in the next decade, compounded by uncertainty around skills following Brexit, it is never too early to start developing the next generation of ‘home grown’ engineering and technology talent that have the right practical skills.

"Work experience is part of the solution and we are now calling on employers and educators to continue to strengthen their working relationships to ensure that the work experience they offer is designed with the skills gap in mind."


The 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report is based on extended telephone interviews with over 400 engineering employers across the UK. While there is some optimism from employers about being able to recruit the engineers they need, concerns about skills gaps and diversity issues, the role of education, and a lack of experienced engineering staff all come under the spotlight. Findings include:

Education, employment and skills gaps

  • 68% of employers say they are concerned that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required for technological change
  • 52% of employers are currently seeking new engineering and technology recruits
  • 57% are currently, or have recently, experienced problems recruiting senior engineers with 5-10 years’ experience
  • 50% find that a typical new engineering and technology recruit does not meet their reasonable expectations

Work experience

  • 76% of employers agree that compelling all engineering and technology companies to provide work experience would improve the pool of engineering talent
  • 53% don’t know how the apprentice levy can benefit their organisation

Diversity and inclusion

  • 9% of the UK engineering and technology workforce are female
  • 63% of businesses don’t have gender diversity initiatives in place (increased from 57% in 2015)
  • 73% don’t have LGBT or ethnic diversity initiatives in place
  • 40% of employers agree that their organisation could do more to recruit people from diverse backgrounds

The IET champions the need for employers and the education sector to collaborate to offer a diverse range of quality work experience to engineering students. For more information about the range of support and options available to students through the IET, visit the Students section of the IET website.

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