Memorandum submitted by Engineering UK



1. The engineering community welcomes the interest which is being shown by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee in the issue of NEETs, indeed this is an issue that Engineering UK has raised in their latest annual report[1] on the state of supply and demand within engineering.


2. Engineering is an important profession to UK plc and will play a vital role in dealing with difficult future challenges such as climate change. As such it is vital to ensure there is a steady flow of skilled new entrants into engineering, who can progress to become professionally qualified and lead the response to these challenges. It must be stressed at the outset that, whilst engineering learning routes can engage students that might otherwise become NEET, this is not their primary function, which is to develop young people's knowledge, understanding and capability in engineering principles and practice. This said, helping young people to reach their potential and avoid becoming NEET depends on the availability of a range of learning approaches - including those offered in engineering - at the appropriate level for the individual student.


3. The projected future demand for engineers coupled with a declining cohort of young people entering the workforce makes it imperative that we ensure young people - including those in danger of becoming NEET - have the opportunity to follow engineering learning paths. For this reason the engineering community have confined our response to the following question posed in the investigation:


The opportunities and future prospects in education, training and employment for 16-18 year olds.


4. We would also like to draw the committee's attention to the engineering community's response to the Cabinet Office's review of social mobility in the professions earlier this year and the review's subsequent findings, which concluded that engineering was performing comparatively well in providing opportunities for people from a range of backgrounds to progress to the higher levels of the profession.


5. In addition, further information on the state of the labour market for engineering, including projected supply and demand trends is available in Engineering UK 2009 (





6. Estimates from Working Future III in Engineering UK 2009 estimate that in the period 2007-2017 there will be a net requirement for 587,000 new entrants into the manufacturing workforce based on the future prospects of the sector and retirements from the existing workforce . This demand is particularly pronounced in the defence sector where research from A│D│S predicts that close to 60% of the workforce will retire, creating demand for new workers in the sector.


7. If large scale infrastructure projects such as the proposed nuclear power stations and the high speed railway go ahead these numbers will increase further. This effect will be magnified if the current drive towards low carbon technology succeeds in creating a new sizable UK industry in low carbon technology as a large proportion of those employed will be in the engineering sector (this point is elaborated in the engineering community response to the Environmental Audit Committee's investigation into green jobs).


8. Against this, it is estimated that there will be a 16% decrease in the number of 18 year olds over the next ten years and an 8% decrease in the number of 15-24 year olds[2].


9. In addition, over 927,000 young people are currently unemployed, with youth unemployment expected to exceed 1,000,000 in 2010. Within the 16-18 year cohort the proportion of NEETs increased from 9.7% at the end of 2007 to 10.3% at the end of 2008. In 2007, 56% of young people not in education or training were in work. In 2008 this fell to 49%. The problem of 16-18 year old NEETs is likely to remain despite the statistical shift which will occur as a result of raising the participation age to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015.


10. A potential unresolved issue that we feel relates to the issue of NEETs is the significant loss of potential talent not progressing to level 3 after GCSE; 52% of students in England in 2008 do not advance their studies[3]. EngineeringUK has identified this issue as one in need of further research and investigation.


11. The jobs which will be available in engineering suggest that the future prospects for 16-18 year olds are good in this sector but success will depend on their being equipped with the right skills to succeed in demanding engineering careers. It also requires the raising of aspirations, linked to support to improve achievement levels in schools, as entry into the engineering sector often requires high levels of prior achievement. This mindset will prove vital throughout their careers, and assist in working towards professional qualifications.


12. To ensure that this happens it will be necessary to continue to provide a wide variety of routes at various levels into the profession, including pre-apprenticeships, employer-led apprenticeships and the new Engineering Diploma (and in the case of Civil Engineering, the Construction and Built Environment Diploma). Whilst these routes will engage students that might otherwise become NEET, this is not their primary function, which is to develop young people's knowledge, understanding and capability in engineering principals and practice. Helping young people to avoid becoming NEET depends on the availability of a range of learning approaches at the appropriate level.


13. EngineeringUK's Education and Skills Panel has highlighted good practice in Wales which shows that there is significant value in Further Education College's providing pre-apprenticeship training to learners ahead of their taking up a full employer led apprenticeship. Such training increases both the chances of the learner obtaining a placement with the employer and the initial value of the learner to the employer though the apprentice's immediate ability to understand and undertake a wider range of tasks. This model of delivering vocational training is particularly valuable in a time of recession where employer led apprenticeships are not in abundance, they also allow the learner an opportunity to 'prove' their commitment to their chosen vocation.


14. In terms of apprenticeships, the majority of the required expansion will have to come through Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and micro-businesses as this is where the majority of engineering jobs are found (56% of employees work in businesses with fewer than 250 employees. This figure rises considerably in some parts of the UK, for Northern Ireland this figure is 72%[4]).


15. There are however considerable barriers to the expansion of apprenticeships provision in this sector, in particular the administrative burdens and the initial financial outlay involved. In the first year of an apprenticeship the typical cumulative net cost to an employer of providing an engineering apprenticeship is 17,909 followed by 7,671 in the second year. It takes on average five years before these costs can be fully recovered[5].

16. Beyond the costs of employing the apprentices there are considerable associated costs for employers necessitated by interactions with colleges and the Learning and Skills Council (in England only - soon to be replaced by a variety of new bodies, including the Skills Funding Agency, with other responsibilities transferred to local authorities).

17. All of this can act as a considerable deterrent to SMEs and micro-businesses which might otherwise be able and willing to employ apprentices. Given the economic necessity for such placements there is a strong case for providing further administrative support in relation to these costs.

18. The provision of administrative support to employers would have the added benefit of ensuring that more time and resource would be available for those employers currently offering apprenticeships and allowing more regular interaction between employers and colleges. There would be considerable benefits from such interaction, particularly resulting from employer input into the curricula of courses in partnership with the Sector Skills Council.

19. The Engineering Diploma is a fairly recent and welcome addition to the pathways into the engineering profession. 2,500 learners started the diploma in September 2008 and it is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 learners will have started in 2009[6].

20. The initial signs are very positive, over 1,000 employers have signed up to help with work-related learning. These vary from major contractors and the large utilities companies to local businesses[7]. An analysis of the entry requirements for engineering courses at Russell Group universities, carried out in May 2009, found that the Advanced Diploma is accepted for admission to 79% of available courses, provided students achieve sufficiently high grades and have studied certain options. The Engineering Diploma has been expressly welcomed by many of the top universities in the country, including Oxford and Cambridge.[8]

21. The Engineering Diploma provides a good mix of theoretical and "hands on" learning which has all the potential to appeal to a significant demographic of students and to employers who call for these mixed skills.


22. The Diploma should be given enough time to be tested in real world conditions and to overcome initial challenges in take up and provision. It is crucial that efforts continue to be made to maximise employer engagement.

23. Engineering provides considerable opportunities to young people to make a significant contribution to the economy and to society at large. The career prospects for young people in the profession are considerable and diverse. It is however essential that there be an increased focus on equipping young people with the skills and training, as well as the careers information, advice and guidance to ensure that they can take advantage of these opportunities.




The Engineering Council

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)



About us

EngineeringUK is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to promote the vital contribution that engineers, and engineering and technology, make to our society. We also aim to inspire people at all levels to pursue careers in engineering and technology.

The Engineering Council holds the national registers of Chartered Engineers (CEng), Incorporated Engineers (IEng) and Engineering Technicians (EngTech). It also sets and maintains the internationally recognised standards of competence and ethics that govern the award and retention of these titles. By this means it is able to ensure that employers, government and wider society - both at home and overseas - can have confidence in the skills and commitment of registrants.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is one of the world's leading professional societies for the engineering and technology community. The IET has more than 150,000 members in 127 countries and offices in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. The IET provides a global knowledge network to facilitate the exchange of ideas and promote the positive role of science, engineering and technology in the world. In the UK, the IET supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by running a series of enrichment activities, including the award winning Faraday Programme, an exciting year-long programme of resources, activities, competitions and events.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a UK-based international organisation with over 80,000 members ranging from professional civil engineers to students.  It is an educational and qualifying body and has charitable status under UK law.  Founded in 1818, the ICE has become recognised worldwide for its excellence as a centre of learning, as a qualifying body and as a public voice for the profession.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is an international professional membership organization for people who have an interest in and relevant experience in chemical engineering. We are the only organization to award Chartered Chemical Engineer status. We are also licensed to award the titles of Chartered Engineer (CEng), Chartered Scientist (CSi) and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) to suitably qualified members.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) was established in 1847 and has some of the world's greatest engineers in its history books. It currently has around 86,000 members in 120 countries representing mechanical engineers involved in a diversity of fields such as the automotive, rail, aerospace, medical, power and construction industries to name a few. Visit for more information.


December 2009

[1] Engineering UK 2009/10, EngineeringUK, p67


[3] Engineering UK 2009/10, EngineeringUK, p65

[4] Ibid, p87

[5] Engineering UK 2009/10, EngineeringUK, p90

[6] Ibid, p70

[7] Ibid, p70

[8] Transforming Engineering Education: a report on the first year of the new Engineering Diploma for 14-19 year olds