The UK’s engineering and manufacturing sector has a proud history that spans industrialisation and ship-building – but has encountered bouts of difficulty in modern times thanks to overseas competition, the closure of coal mines and outsourcing. According to the Office of National Statistics, the proportion of jobs accounted for by the manufacturing and mining and quarrying sectors in the UK fell from 26.4% to just 7.8%. The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs to find more than one million new engineers by 2020 to meet demand. According to Engineering UK, there’s a shortfall of 69,000 engineers and technicians entering engineering or STEM-related subjects.
However, this shortfall means there’s a higher demand for workers, with over half of employers struggling to identify suitable candidates for engineering jobs. A report by Costain, entitled Skills: Meeting Demand, argues the government’s investment in infrastructure such as roads, railways and runways provides huge opportunities for new talent. Just 15% of engineers are female, which presents an opportunity for young women who are looking to establish themselves in a profession that is aiming to close its gender gap.
On top of this growing demand, the UK remains one of the best countries in the world to become an engineer – whatever industry you’re interested in. Automotive engineers are particularly well-suited for training, as 18 of the world’s top 20 automotive supplies are situated in the UK. The UK’s aerospace engineering sector is flourishing, with the largest base of small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe. For anyone debating a career path, engineering presents a versatile range of options.
Pay is also an encouraging factor, with average starting salaries higher than the UK’s national average. Figures by the Graduate Recruitment Bureau report General Engineers earn £27,157 – but specialisms affect this: for example, Chemical Engineers earn £28,600 in their first role and £25,500 in Civil Engineering. The average starting salary of most UK graduates (aside from those employed by prestigious top 100 employers) is around £18,000-22,000.
What do you need for a career in engineering?
Most engineers start their careers by studying Maths and Physics at A-level, with Chemistry also a must for chemical engineering students. The usual standard of results for engineering courses (although this differs by University) is AAB.
At A-Level, there are some specialist schemes you can aim to be a part of that can help your university application. For example, leading Cherry Picker Manufacturing Company, Niftylift, runs an Engineering Education Scheme (EES). The course is part of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is a way for A-level students to get real world experience – consisting of a project that awards a BA CREST Gold Award.
Once you’ve completed the A-level stage, you’ll can then apply to university for different specialisms. For students aiming high, we’ve also presented a list of the top five universities for each course according to league tables:
- Chemical – Cambridge, Imperial College London, Bath, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
- Civil – Cambridge, Imperial College London, Bath, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- Electronic and Electrical – Cambridge, Imperial College London, Southampton, Glasgow, University College London.
- Materials and Mineral (as Materials Technology) – Cambridge, Surrey, Oxford, Imperial College London, Birmingham
- Mechanical: Cambridge, Imperial College London, Bath, Leeds and Bristol.
There are also general engineering degrees that cover more than one specialism. This can be preferable for studying but often the top jobs go to specialist graduates. Apprenticeships can however be better for securing direct employment, as most companies that offer training will then need the in-house experience the apprentice gains as they study. Applying requires strong GCSE’s in maths, IT and science.
Ultimately, a career in engineering is an attractive prospect for any students interested in maths and sciences. With a shortage of skills in the industry, graduates and apprentices are well placed to take advantage of prospects and secure employment after the complete their studies.