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The UK’s lack of Engineers puts Net Zero Targets at Risk


The UK plans to reduce it’s greenhouse gas emissions and become net zero by 2050. To achieve this however, the UK needs a large workforce of skilled engineers to build a more sustainable future. Currently there is estimated to be a shortfall of around 37,000-59,000 in meeting the annual demand for core engineering roles requiring level 3 and above skills. So why is there a shortage of engineers?


In-adequate Education

The decline of apprenticeships since the mid 1970’s is a contributing factor in the skills shortage we see today. In the past, engineering apprenticeships have left students lacking the necessary skills required for the workplace. Action is now being taken to correct this, with the Government, businesses, industry bodies and academia working together to offer relevant training that adapts when technology evolves and processes improve.

T-levels have been implemented since 2020 to further aid in the effort to fill this skill gap. These T-levels involve a compulsory 3-month industry placement, as well as final exams. This allows students to gain invaluable real-world experience, alongside learning the theoretical aspects of engineering. Unlike past training programmes, T-levels should provide students with a wholesome view of engineering and provide them with all the skills they need to enter the industry.

Apprenticeships are high on the agenda and aim to improve the quality and quantity of courses available. With T-levels and modern apprenticeships being available, there is hope that enough people have the opportunity to take these courses and are trained to become highly skilled engineers and fill the current shortage in time to meet net zero targets.


Outdated Perception

Until recently, the common perception of engineering is spanners and dirty overalls. This of course is only a very narrow view of engineering and doesn’t represent all the areas of engineering. Many younger people may be put off pursuing a career in engineering due to this perception, which is why work is being done to change people’s perceptions. The aim is to inspire the next generation of innovators, inventors and problem solvers by showing them what engineers actually do.

Perceptions are starting to change as Engineering UK and Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM) annual survey revealed that as more people gain a better understanding of engineering, the more they are attracted into entering the industry.


Aging Workforce

The engineering sector has an aging workforce with 19.5% of engineers currently working in the UK due to retire by 2026. Once these workers have retired, they will leave behind skills, knowledge and experience gaps that will impact the rest of the sector. If these workers are not replaced, the skills deficit will remain the same and will therefore delay efforts to become net zero by 2050. This is why the new apprenticeships and T-Levels are important so that there is a steady influx of new skilled engineers to replace those who are retiring.


Economic Impacts

Many engineers left the industry to ride out the recession, then when the sectors picked up, many didn’t return. Skills became lost and outdated because of this and to make matters worse, many employers reduced the number of entry level positions, causing further skills gaps in the long run.


Poor Promotion of Brands

Business websites act as a shop window for potential candidates to get a taste of what the company does, and what it would be like to work for them. It is important for businesses to use their website as a platform to market themselves professionally to attract top talent. The engineering industry however has lagged behind other industries in recent years in this regard as most other industries have built stronger employer brands and therefore find it easier to attract talent.


Help fill the UK’s skills gaps in Engineering by upskilling your team with engineering related courses available on GM Skills Map here: Skills For Growth - Skills Map (


Skills for Growth – SME Support can help you upskill your employees and examine your organisational structure to identify any skills gaps within your team. Click here to apply for our fully funded support service or call 0161 237 4444 and speak to a Skills Coach today.


About the author

Morgan Charnley

Morgan Charnley

Marketing Apprentice on the Skills for Growth - SME Support programme.