Lack of ‘new blood’ signposts serious skills shortfall in global race

UK must double number of under 19s studying engineering Advanced Level Apprenticeships

A report by EngineeringUK which projects the UK’s capacity for industrial growth reveals that the shortfall of under 19s taking advanced engineering apprenticeships could jeopardise the UK’s ability to compete against leading economies, such as China and the US.

Engineering UK 2014 highlights a decline of 12.2% to 16,280* young people under 19 taking engineering-related Advanced Level Apprenticeships – a downward trend which would damage the UK’s current and future capacity for growth if left unaddressed.

The report findings and recommendations were the basis of a roundtable meeting held at No. 11 Downing Street on Monday 2 December, at which Minister for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock MP discussed the imperatives of a skilled engineering talent-pipeline with leading business and industry representatives, including BAE Systems, BT Technology, National Grid, Rolls-Royce and Shell UK.

EngineeringUK Chief Executive, Paul Jackson, said: 

“Positive action has been taken to address the skills gap at all levels. The recent Perkins review and announcement of investment in universities and further education colleges’ science and engineering facilities will build a foundation to accelerate skills growth in the sector.

“The overall growth in Advanced Level Apprenticeships is driven by engineers aged 25+, which suggests that UK engineering businesses are taking positive action to ensure current employees are qualified to the right level. Undoubtedly other engineering related level 3 vocational qualifications will feed into the future supply of skilled technicians and engineers and should be linked to business.  However, as these findings show, it is vital we focus on attracting new talent into the industry. As the UK economy’s engine for growth, it is crucial that engineering gains sustained support for education, training and careers inspiration.”

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable said:

“Engineering is central to Britain’s economic future as it creates highly adaptable skills which are valuable across the whole economy and bring the opportunity for long term jobs, supporting the industrial strategy. As the economy recovers the need for more skilled engineers across the country will continue to grow.
“It is critical that we close the engineering skills gap which is why government is working in partnership with industry to encourage more young people, particularly women, to pick the right GCSE and A Level subjects to lead to engineering degrees.
“Tomorrow's Engineers Week, which aimed to inspire young people to consider a career in engineering displayed the wide variety of jobs available. I want the next decade to be the decade of the engineer. In doing this we will build a more balanced and sustainable economy delivering high skills and innovation with engineers of all kinds at its heart.”

Following the findings, EngineeringUK makes the following calls on behalf of the engineering community for collaborative action across government, engineering businesses, the education sector and the wider engineering community to realise these recommendations:

•             A two-fold increase in the number of under-19s studying vocational level 3 qualifications. In particular, we need to increase numbers studying the Advanced Apprenticeship frameworks in engineering and manufacturing technology, construction planning and the built environment, and information and communications technologies.

•             A two-fold increase in the number of engineering graduates. This is vital to meet the demand for future engineering graduates and to meet the shortfall in physics teachers and engineering lecturers who will play a vital role in inspiring future generations of talented engineers.

•             Double the numbers of young people studying GSCE physics as part of triple sciences and grow the numbers of students studying physics A level to match those of maths. There should be a particular focus on increasing take-up and progression by girls.

•             Provision of careers inspiration for all 11- to 14-year-olds. This should include opportunities to meet technical leaders from across a range of scientific, technological, engineering and business sectors and experience of the workplace. This inspiration must highlight the value placed on STEM skills and promote the diversity of engineering careers. It must be backed up with consistent, face-to-face careers information advice and guidance that highlights the subjects needed and the variety of routes to those careers. 

•             Support for teachers and careers advisors in delivering careers information that helps students understand the range of modern scientific, technological, and engineering career paths - including vocational/technician careers – and recognise the value employers place on STEM subjects. Students also need to have the opportunity to experience a 21st century engineering workplace for themselves.


For all media enquiries including photographs from the roundtable contact Miriam Laverick:
020 3206 0444

Notes to Editors

The Big Bang programme, led by EngineeringUK, will open up the National Science + Engineering Competition to apprentices under 19 to further recognise the value of apprentices to the industry. 

*Final Advanced Level Apprenticeship data 2011/12.

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Provisional data for 2012/13 shows a slight increase of under 19s taking engineering-related Advanced Level Apprenticeships, although still in minus figures.

2011/12 final data for level 2 apprenticeships shows a +13.9% increase (64,750), which would be a good basis for progression to level 3. However, 2012/13 provisional data shows a decrease of 19% (56,870) in numbers studying at level 2, which highlights further the need for collaborative action to address the skills gap.

Engineering UK 2014: The state of engineering is an annual report on the state of UK engineering and the cornerstone of wider policy output. To read the report, go to

Companies represented at the roundtable meeting:

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EngineeringUK is an independent organisation that promotes the vital contribution of engineers, engineering and technology in our society. EngineeringUK partners business and industry, government and the wider science and engineering community: producing evidence on the state of engineering, sharing knowledge within engineering and inspiring young people to choose a career in engineering, matching employers’ demand for skills. For more information about EngineeringUK please visit