London, 10 September 2013: Engineering leaders convened yesterday (9 September) at the start of London International Shipping Week (LISW) for a roundtable discussion on the extent of the industry’s skill shortage. The event was one of the first to bring together representatives from the UK naval and defence, commercial, leisure, shipping and offshore sectors. A key topic of debate was the first look at survey results polling 500 hiring authorities, which confirmed 93% believe they are working in a skill gap market.
The event and survey were co-ordinated by The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) in partnership with leading engineering recruitment agency, Matchtech. Key survey talking points included:
- Recruitment repercussions: 91% are concerned their business could be negatively impacted by recruitment troubles in the next 12 months
- The lack of women in marine engineering: Over a third of marine engineers (36%) are working in companies with less than a 1% female workforce, while 84% of respondents have less than one in ten female employees in their organisation
- Graduate deficit: almost two thirds (62%) disagreed or were not sure that graduate candidates are suitably educated and ready for work in the marine sector
The research and roundtable discussion confirmed that the skills shortage is a key unifying pressure across a traditionally fragmented industry. There are over 5,000 maritime engineering companies that employ nearly 90,000 people in UK. 89% of survey respondents recruited candidates last year, with 47% looking to increase job opportunities this year.
Matchtech has been campaigning for action to be taken to address the skills gap across all sectors of UK engineering. As IMarEST’s recruitment partner, the two organisations are working together to investigate the skills gap of engineers in the maritime and energy markets. Chaired by Rear Admiral Nigel Guild CB, Chairman of the Engineering Council and a past President of IMarEST; the roundtable attracted unions, academia and associations, ports and offshore oil in addition to representatives from gas sectors.
While the lack of women in engineering is a serious concern across the industry, the roundtable participants acknowledged the marine sector needs to address the reality that people choosing a maritime career are almost always following in a family tradition. The lack of female maritime engineers has improved in less than half (42%) of marine engineering companies during the last five years.
Natalie Desty, Marine & Shipping Division at Matchtech, commented: “The survey results mirrored the important issues that are affecting our round table panel of maritime engineering industry leaders.
“The challenge of how to grow, engage and sustain the maritime engineering pipeline is an issue we are committed to helping the IMarEST and the attending organisations tackle. The next step will be to produce a working mandate for how we can all work together to ensure the skills gap and industry perception problems highlighted today do not continue to damage the UK maritime industry."
There was unanimous roundtable agreement that the skills gap is burdening graduates with expectations of attaining more work experience to fill entry-level job criteria. A key roundtable outcome was the recommendation that education providers and industry leaders need to form closer links in order to combat the skills gap demands moving forward.
Rear Admiral Nigel Guild CB, Chairman of the Engineering Council and a past President of IMarEST, commented: “Collecting contributions from such a diverse but influential network from across the sector created a thoroughly stimulating debate.
“Enhancing the link between Government, industry and training, together with the professional development of staff, were key themes and something that the IMarEST is in a prime position to support and develop.”
85% of survey participants confirmed that their organisation actively supports professional development. The roundtable participants agreed that this was a promising indication that on-the-job training or in-house apprenticeships could solve problems in highly sought-after niche areas of engineering design, such as electrical and marine systems.
The UK has led the way in ship construction throughout history and continues to build first class vessels for both UK and overseas navies, while shipping generated over £6.1bn to UK GDP last year. The roundtable concluded by agreeing the industry needs to focus on developing a sustainable method of recruitment. Key to this is the ability to utilise marine graduates and reduce barriers to entry for women, ensuring the UK remains a marine centre of excellence in the future.
Matchtech and the IMarEST will be producing a white paper report that outlines recommendations on how graduates, employers, education institutions and influencers can work together to ensure the marine industry is sustainable for the future.