Skills shortages and a lack of diversity in UK engineering can be overcome with a new approach by thinking about recruiting from a ‘reservoir of talent’ which is ready to learn, rather than the existing ‘leaky pipeline’.

To drive innovation, productivity and economic growth the UK needs to prepare for the skills challenges of the coming decades. Through workshops and a rapid evidence assessment, the Talent 2050 final report explores future engineering needs in the UK for a globally-competitive skills and diversity mix.

The report recommendations consider the broader skills required in engineering roles of the future. They suggest a more inclusive approach where recruitment or enrolment is based on the potential to gain the right skills rather than prior attainment; and with careers expected to be longer recognising and providing support for upskilling and reskilling; and making use of on-line learning tools at all career stages.

Published today (8th July 2019) the report will be discussed at a roundtable meeting hosted by Barclays with representatives from industry, academia and policy-makers and at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee discussion meeting on STEM education and skills.

Report author, Paul Jackson said:

“We heard from real engineers and found great examples of the changes that could power engineering skills in the future and how those skills are already changing dramatically. They helped us to find a reservoir of future talent that we can access but it will mean changes to education, professional registration and recruitment if we want to succeed at scale and profit from AI and the next industrial revolution.”

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said:

“This report is a welcome addition to the debate about future skills needs. It highlights that together, universities, business and government can do more to equip the UK for a productive and inclusive future. To take full advantage of the UK’s reservoir of talent, upskilling, reskilling and mobility between sectors needs to be fully supported and integrated in an industrial strategy that embraces interdisciplinary working.”

The Talent 2050 project was supported by Barclays, LSBU, NATS and Pearson.

Copies of Talent 2050 final report are available to download here.

Quotes from Sector Leaders

Dawn Bonfield, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering at Aston University said:

“The leaky pipeline analogy of missing skills in engineering erroneously assumes that entry to the sector is from one direction only, but in reality many people – and especially women – who did not choose engineering early in their career have skills that are relevant and crucial to our future engineering needs. This report starts to explore the skills mix that will be needed in the future and how we can mobilise talent into our industry from other sectors.”

Jon Prichard, Chief Executive of Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and former Chief Executive of the Engineering Council said:

“In the late 90’s, the UK engineering profession was one of the first across the globe to embrace the shift in competence assurance from looking at traditional inputs to objective assessment of outcomes. As society’s engagement with learning and the needs of work continue to evolve, then so too should our approach to professional recognition, which increasingly should be supported by needs based engagement. This report provides the sector with a prompt to start that debate.”

Mike Rigby, Director, Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics at Barclays Corporate Banking, said:

“The Talent 2050 report makes an important contribution to the debate around how we shape the future of UK engineering. It’s not what firms want to hear, but we can’t transform the talent pool in the next 5 years – the lead time for genuine change is a full education cycle. Looking further ahead is sensible and sets realistic timescales. In the meantime, businesses have to solve recruitment and skills challenges by engaging in their local communities, working with education partners, looking at opportunities for reskilling and upskilling the existing workforce, and attracting new entrants to the industry from other sectors. Breaking down outdated stereotypes around engineering and the wider manufacturing sector, particularly with regards to gender, will be crucial if we are to get the best people into the right roles to help the industry thrive.”

Julie Elder, HR & Corporate Services Director, NATS said:

“The world around us is changing at an unprecedented rate. With the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution it is imperative that we prepare for skills currency not only for now but for the future. Research projects such as Talent 2050 are vital to ensure that employers and educators understand the skills required and can work in collaboration to bridge the gap both through academia and continuous development. We were honoured to be involved in the project and support any initiative that promotes STEM subjects in education. At NATS, we are committed to attracting and retaining employees with diverse backgrounds and are passionate about developing our staff. We are also dedicated in helping to build and develop STEM talent for the future to support the skills gaps in an ever-increasing global market.”

Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President of Pearson BTEC and Apprenticeship said:

“Clearly, for those aspiring to be engineers, in learning now or advancing their careers, the engineering sector of the future will provide significant opportunities. At Pearson we are working with key stakeholders to ensure that these opportunities are realised for all through the provision of high quality and accessible career education. Our own work at Pearson and the work of the Talent 2050 report highlight how important this is.”

Prof. David Phoenix, Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University (LSBU) said:

“This report highlights the substantial role that universities can play in enabling the engineering sector to access a greater and more diverse reservoir of talent. There is an exciting opportunity for universities to be at the forefront of inter-sectoral mobility – enabling people from wider educational and social backgrounds to upskill and reskill throughout their lives, so they can bring their fresh thinking and other skills to the world of engineering. This needs universities, employers and government to work together to provide the types of support and courses that will enable a more varied range of learners to make the step into engineering; but the prize is a vibrant engineering sector which contributes substantively to our industrial strategy, the UK economy and society.”

Prof. Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said:

“Skills shortages in STEM, and in particular engineering are well documented. Allowing all people of all ages the opportunity to acquire these skills is essential if we are to address these shortages and achieve a sustainable supply to meet the ever changing needs of the sector and wider economy. Flexibility is key to giving everyone the opportunity to fit study around their work, family and other responsibilities. A flexible lifelong learning model helps to embed this flexibility and ultimately encourage more diversity in the workforce.”


About the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB)

As a membership organisation, the National Centre brings together leaders from across higher education and business to tackle issues of shared interest.

About Talent 2050: Engineering skills and education for the future

The baseline Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) for STEM (including digital) skills focused on current supply and potential future demands using 40 sources. The first phase set a baseline for the skills needs in engineering today and use workshops in Edinburgh, Sunderland and London included senior individuals from public and private sectors, trades unions, education and professional bodies, early career stage professionals and researchers.

The second phase used workshops and an advisory group to tap into the hopes, aspirations and expertise of 150 people, asking them to think about the disruption coming, the skills needed to handle new challenges and how learning could be supported, educationally and through funding. Workshops were held in Sunderland, Rochester, Glasgow, London, Birmingham and Southampton. We also worked with a group of final year secondary school students to hear from those who will be actively productive in 2050.

About Paul Jackson, Jasia Education Ltd.

Paul led Talent 2050 for the National Centre for Universities and Business. Paul is well known for STEM initiatives like the Big Bang Fair and commentating on skills issues as the former CEO of Engineering UK and a current school and university board member.

For further information please contact:

Shivaun Meehan

020 7383 7667

Paul Jackson

07778 030396