How to overcome the STEM skills gap in mechanical engineering

by Heat Recruitment

When facing a STEM skills gap, what can you do to boost your business?

As we hurtle towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the need for professionals equipped with STEM skills in mechanical engineering cannot be understated. Yet, according to figures from a recent government study, a sector-wide drought plagues the industry to the tune of 186,000 skilled recruits. Within the EU, mechanical engineers rank seventh on a list of bottlenecks across all occupations, illustrating the fast-growing demand for talent in this arena.

Faced with an industry-wide STEM skills gap, mechanical engineering firms find themselves in a talent tug-of-war. During a period of rapid expansion and infrastructural transformation, mechanical engineering firms have no choice but to rethink their approach to recruitment and retention.

Boosting diversity in mechanical engineering

With 90 per cent of the UK engineering workforce comprising of male employees who tend to come from a relatively narrow social background, it’s no secret that engineering suffers a diversity problem. In recent years, the lack of female employees has manifested into a seismic talent gap: the need for skilled workers is soaring, yet the culture remains a contributing factor in dissuading women from pursuing engineering as a career.

If they are to stave off the negative impact of a skills deficit, mechanical engineering companies must prompt the cultural change necessary to encourage more women to the profession. This means challenging the archetypical image of an engineer through education and awareness; it means working with education providers to foster engagement in the profession at an early age.

Challenging stereotypes to tackle the engineering skills gap

Apprenticeships have proved a success for some mechanical engineering firms in achieving this, giving young people a first-hand look into life in the industry and thus challenging their perception of what it means to work in engineering. Through such programmes, companies in the sector are able to nurture young talent and harness their potential by giving them the tools they need to develop their skills. Taking responsibility for the industry-wide skills gap means investing in future talent and providing them with the resources they need to bolster their own skill-set.

Attracting talent with STEM skills through diverse recruitment

As well as apprenticeships, mechanical engineering firms must extend their reach in recruitment to attract diverse candidates. Growing the pipeline of available engineering talent demands that HR leaders and hiring managers within the industry rethink their recruitment strategies to ensure job descriptions are not solely drawing in candidates of one demographic.

After all, true diversity is about much more than just gender. In a recent survey published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology revealed that 87 per cent of UK engineering firms currently have no diversity initiatives in place for LGBT+ or ethnic minorities. If engineering companies are to bridge the STEM skills gap, they must first focus on becoming an equal opportunities employer.

Rather than a one-and-done to fill a talent gap in your team, a sector-wide commitment to challenging the stereotype, broadening the talent pool and creating inclusive workplaces is the key in maintaining a healthy supply of STEM skills both now and in the future.

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by Mike Taylor