Upskilling the Engineers of Tomorrow, Today

Article by Laura Barrow

It’s no secret that the UK’s engineering industry is facing a skills shortage of record levels.

The speed of innovation has long ago overtaken the development of the nation’s workforce.

To keep up with the ever-growing number of technological advancements, something needs to change.

According to The Manufacturer, there is a current shortfall of 20,000 engineers with higher skills.

By 2025, the industry could potentially require 1.8 million trained engineers with essential higher level skills and qualifications.

It’s not all doom and gloom!

To address the issue, I caught up with Scott Cubitt, Head of School for Science, Engineering & Automotive Technologies at Preston’s College, who believes it is the responsibility of the sector, employers and academia to address the higher level skills gap.

In our interview, we discussed how more and more employers are recognising the importance of their role in bridging the gap.

Employers who upskill their workforce, ensuring their staff are equipped with higher level skills and qualifications, are seeing benefits that have a positive impact on both employees and business.

Scott said: “We are seeing a growing number of people enrolling onto our Higher Education Engineering provision year-on-year.

“Employers are starting to recognise the importance of equipping their workforce with higher level skills and technical abilities to keep up with the innovative industry.

“At Preston’s College, we offer a flexible delivery pattern to ensure impact on business is minimal.

“Sessions run during the evenings and on Friday afternoons to allow the individual to put their skills into practice and to ensure a business isn’t effected during their absence.”

STEM Learning, the UK’s largest organisation providing STEM education, corroborated the current skills shortages and highlighted that there is significant demand for higher skilled employees in the engineering industry.

In direct response to the workforce deficiency, ‘The Year of Engineering 2018’ is a government campaign introduced to see a national drive in all corners of the country, aimed at tackling the skills gap.

Draw on the talent you already have!

An important step is educating employers on the significance of upskilling their workforce; the benefits hold as much value as hiring someone who is already equipped with higher skills.

Engineering UK suggested that technological innovation and investment in upskilling employees is fundamental in securing the future of the industry. In short, the rate of supply of those with higher level skills will not satisfy the expected demand over the next decade.

Scott continued: “It’s important for the employer to upskill their workforce and support employees who wish to study a Higher Education course alongside employment to develop their skills and advance their career.

“Drawing on talent already in the workplace not only improves skill set, but increases morale, productivity and retention.”

Of course, let’s not forget that studying is a commitment to both the employer and staff member. However, training providers like Preston’s College offer flexible delivery arrangements to ensure impact on business is minimal.

Developing a highly skilled workforce brings long-term benefits to business, the individual and the future of the industry.

Joe Hodgson studied HNC Project & Quality Management at Preston’s College and told us that the course perfectly tied into his role in industry as a Quality Engineer.

The course also allowed Joe to advance his career and take up a new role with BCW Engineering.

Joe said: “I returned to formal education after 20 years which was made all the more easy by the tutors at the College.

“Gaining higher level skills and studying the course definitely helped me reach my future career goals; in my final months of studying I was able to take up a new position with BCW Engineering.

“I had a very positive experience of getting back into studying to advance my skills, and I feel that employers are starting to recognise the benefits to business by allowing their workers to gain higher level qualifications too.”

What can we learn?

  • There is a shortage of employees with higher level skills in the engineering industry
  • Employers are beginning to recognise the long-term benefits of upskilling their workforce
  • Growing the number of employees with higher skills is fundamental to bridge the skills gap

It is crucial at this point for industry, government and academia to work together to produce the next generation of engineers whilst upskilling its current workforce to keep up with the progressive and technical nature of the ever-growing engineering industry.

Preston’s College offers Engineering courses at from Level 1 to Higher National Diploma (HND) with places still available in September. To find out more, visit


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