Half of key UK industries surveyed believe their sector is suffering a skills shortage – and even more expect the shortfall to get worse, according to recent research. The results reveal that 54.5 percent of respondents felt the lack of skills in science, technology, engineering and maths would only get worse over the next five years.
The revealing survey not only confirmed the anecdotal evidence which has been causing growing unease, but also highlighted regional variations and differences in attitudes depending on workers’ age, seniority and gender.
The research sought the opinions of 1,100 respondents – from company leaders down – in the industries of finance and banking, construction, property, manufacturing, computing, engineering, public services, telecoms, utilities, environmental services and education.
There was also an implied criticism of education – with 45.4 percent pointing to education as having the greatest responsibility for training the next generation of engineers and technicians.
The overall pattern of about half reporting a skills gap was repeated around the country, but was highest in the West Midlands where the figure rose to 54.8 percent, compared to only 37.8 percent in East Anglia.
East Anglia had a majority of 73.3 percent who felt students had the right attitudes and aptitudes – in stark contrast with Wales where 80.4 percent felt the opposite.
Technical and engineering, as the worst-hit sector for skills nationally, appeared to be struggling most in the South East, where 68.3 percent believed there was a shortfall, followed by 66.7 percent in Northern Ireland.”
Company seniority also made a difference with 60 percent of the highest ranking respondents reporting a skills shortage, compared to 28.6 percent of the most junior. Of those top managers, 64.3 percent predicted it would get worse.
Older workers were much more pessimistic than their younger colleagues: among those aged over 54, 67.5 percent believed the skills shortage would worsen, compared to a slight minority of 49.6 percent of younger employees aged 18-24 in agreement.
Younger staff also put more emphasis on employers providing skills than the education sector with 42.1 percent holding that view, compared to only 30 percent of the over-54 age group, of whom 46.3 percent felt it was education’s responsibility.
Men were most concerned about the problems in technical and engineering, with 62.8 percent highlighting a skills gap – more than 10 percentage points higher than women at 51.9 percent.