UK's Engineering Workforce Must Reorganize After COVID-19, Claims Study

The UK may need 40,000 more eco-friendly engineers to recover from COVID-19's economic toll.
Brad Bergan

A new report argues for a redeployment of the U.K.'s engineering workforce to fully recover from the economic toll of COVID-19 — in addition to preparing for the changes needed to retain the engineering workforce amid the global climate crisis.

The study — written by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) — highlights how engineering skills and core competencies across the U.K.'s energy and processing infrastructure overlap, in addition to unveiling common barriers to transferability between industries that divide trades and occupations more than they need to be.


Engineering skills overlap crucial for industrial recovery

The report speaks to similar skills and competencies across different sectors — from oil and gas to renewables, nuclear, and pharmaceuticals — that keep the U.K.'s industrial infrastructure running, reports The Engineer.

The most severe economic impact from the COVID-19 crisis was felt in the oil and gas industries — already under multiple pressures — argues the ECITB, which also claims proper planning and coordination might accelerate the industrial transition to a carbon-free economy.

However, it also warns that failure to act quickly risks the loss of thousands of good engineers with the necessary skill set to move the world's industries into decarbonization.

This is crucial because the oil and gas sector has already lost 7,500 jobs — the agency, Oil and Gas UK, predicts up to 30,000 additional job losses through the next 12 to 18 months. And it gets worse.

UK needs at least 40,000 new engineers skilled in eco-friendly industries

Forecasts suggest we may need at least 40,000 new workers with relevant skills in renewable energy, carbon capture technologies, and hydrogen fuel to decarbonize the U.K.'s industrial hubs in the next decade, The Engineer reports. But too few new workers with the right stuff — in addition to younger ones entering the industry — means recruitment is at the moment falling short of demand.

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In other words, engineers need to re-up in eco-friendly skills and redeploy throughout other industrial sectors now more so than ever.

Many highly-skilled workers could be 'easily moved'

Chief Executive of the ECITB Chris Claydon said: "Before the pandemic hit, the U.K.'s engineering construction industry faced persistent skills shortages and despite the economic downturn and current pressures, our expectation is that overall workforce demand will continue to exceed supply over the coming decades," reports The Engineer.

"While skills transferability is pursued to a limited extent through the U.K. Government's National Retraining Scheme, with careful planning and greater focus on sectoral needs, many highly skilled roles that are transferable across engineering construction sectors could be more easily moved," he added.

COVID-19, oil price drop could see loss of skilled workers

"Economic pressures from COVID-19 and oil price depression could see the U.K. [hemorrhage] skilled workers. The government needs to act quickly on this dual opportunity to deliver against our net zero commitment and prevent lasting unemployment in our industrial heartlands," explained Claydon.

As the global industrial architecture transforms amid the coming industrial revolution, the economic devastation caused during the COVID-19 crisis has only increased pressure on countries like the U.K. to reorganize its engineering workforce before it's too late — or see engineers across the nation's industrial sectors suffer an unprecedented loss in work, despite numerous requisite skills and competencies.

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