plugging the skills gap in engineering

The global economy has an engineering skills shortage. But where are the biggest gaps and what types of engineers is the sector most in need of?

Engineering is a field that can offer hugely exciting and almost limitless opportunities. According to EngineeringUK, engineering is amongst the “most in-demand jobs globally”. This means that one of the stand-out benefits of being an engineer is that you can virtually choose where you’d like to work.


According to the Global Engineering Report 2016, conducted by Staffing Industry Analysts, employers are reporting “significant skills shortages in the engineering sectors”.

One factor increasing the number of job opportunities in the automotive engineering sector is the price of oil - unsurprising for an industry creating machines dependent on the fuel. According to the Global Engineering Report, the fall in oil prices, the rise in employment and low interest rates have encouraged more people to buy vehicles.

Although there are engineers who enjoy the flexibility of temporary work, many others prefer a more stable form of employment. The fact that the lowest temporary placement rates are in the biomedical and petroleum engineering sectors means that engineers looking for long-term roles could be drawn to these options.


In the European Union (EU), there are a number of countries reporting various bottlenecks in different engineering fields. Bottlenecks are defined by the European Commission as jobs where employers have had problems in the past to find and hire staff and expect the same in the future. On a list of bottlenecks across all occupations within the EU, mechanical engineers are ranked seventh, electrical engineers 12th and civil engineers 14th.

Engineering can present opportunities across many sectors, seen in the fact that Engineering UK’s 2016 report ‘The State of Engineering’ found that for every new engineering role, two jobs are created in the wider economy.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) revealed in a report that up to 62 per cent of engineering employers say that graduates cannot offer the right skills, which is a contributing factor to the engineering skills gap.

Naomi Climer, IET president, said: “Demand for engineers is high but the report reveals deeper concern than ever around the skills and experience of our future workforce.” She went on to add: “Employers and educators must continue to strengthen their working relationships to ensure that the work experience they offer is designed with the skills gaps in mind.”

When engineering jobs cannot be filled, it delays projects, which can then impact the profitability of companies and affect their relationships with customers. This means that when firms have problems recruiting people within the engineering field, it can affect other industries. Finding the right people therefore becomes even more important.


In 2015, the scale of the global engineering staffing market was estimated to be roughly $26.4 billion. Europe was the largest regional market, with a 39 per cent global share, followed by North America at 34 per cent and the Asia/Pacific region at 21 per cent.

According to the University of New South Wales, Australia is “desperately short of engineers,” with the country’s “demand for engineers far [exceeding] its supply of graduates”. Every year, a total of 18,000 engineering positions need to be filled. Almost 6,000 of those are taken by engineering students who graduate from universities in Australia, which leaves 12,000 positions available for qualified engineers.

When looking at opportunities in the US, California is the biggest engineering market, which is the perfect region for sailing and surfing enthusiasts. Next is Texas, which is then followed by Michigan.

When engineers - whether newly qualified or with a number of years’ experience - begin to narrow down where they would like to ply their incredibly valuable trade, they will have a huge number of choices in front of them.

where engineers are needed most

  • Within the UK, demand for engineers is highest in the south-east region, where 43,000 jobs were posted in 2014, the latest year for which figures are available.
  • A total of 41,000 engineering jobs were posted in Greater London in the same year.
  • Meanwhile, in the US, the largest engineering market is found in California, where it is worth $ 1.1 billion. This is a total of 0.05 per cent of the whole state’s GDP. Within California, the largest market is found in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan region, where the market is worth $386 million.
  • In Texas, the engineering market is worth £880 million. The state’s largest market is in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan region, which is worth $451 million.
  • Due to problems in recruiting staff, Germany and Sweden are both in need of mechanical and electrical engineers.
  • In Greece, there is a large demand for electronics, industrial and production and telecommunications engineers.
  • Meanwhile, mining engineers are highly sought after in Sweden.
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