Improved understanding of apprenticeships could unlock engineering talent

  • New research shows majority of young people know almost nothing about apprenticeships and popularity is in decline
  • More targeted careers information on the value of apprenticeships for young people and their parents and teachers needed
  • 124,000 people needed each year with core engineering skills

Improving public knowledge and perceptions of vocational routes into engineering could generate the boost needed to fill 124,000 jobs a year. Research published in the Engineering UK 2018: State of Engineering ahead of Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) shows low levels of awareness, with 58% of 11 to 14-year-olds saying they know very little about apprenticeships and the different types of apprenticeships available. Understanding is similarly low amongst parents with only 46% saying they know what apprentices do.

Annual demand for people with “core engineering” skills stands at 124,000 a year, with an additional 79,000 workers needed each year in “related” roles – those that use engineering knowledge with other skills. Given the current supply of talent coming through the education pipeline, the annual shortfall is up to 56,000.

While apprenticeships have recently grown in popularity, early data for 2017 indicates numbers are dropping. This decline has coincided with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, suggesting it is yet to have the desired effect.

Mark Titterington, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, said: “Careers in modern engineering are exciting and diverse and literally help to shape the world we live in. Engineers play a critical role in sustainably powering our lives, looking after our health and well-being, feeding the world, and helping people to live and move around more efficiently. The types of jobs people actually do are very different to what might be expected and, in this Year of Engineering, it’s incumbent on all of us to help young people to see how apprenticeships in particular can offer a very credible, valuable and rewarding career route into engineering.

Together with government, we also need to ensure that apprenticeships that are offered are of a consistent high quality and that they are open and attractive to a diverse range of young people, particularly girls. We believe this is crucial if the skills shortfall identified in our latest report is to be tackled to the benefit of both the UK economy and our society.

The focus on what can make apprenticeships work, including looking at the impact of the levy, quality of current provision, and perceptions of young people, will be one of the topics that will be part of our new, extended research agenda”.

The Engineering UK 2018: State of Engineering report and associated data resources are available at

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