The UK’s engineering and construction industry is under threat from under-skilled graduates, but using technology throughout the attraction and recruitment process can help revive interest in these sectors.
It’s a widely-known fact that skills shortages in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are slowing economic recovery throughout the UK.
As university attendance has surged in recent years, more graduates than ever are on the job hunt, but a relative few are pursuing careers in engineering and construction. Indeed, nearly 40% of firms looking for STEM skills are experiencing difficulty recruiting, according to the BBC. If Britain hopes to increase building and grow as an infrastructure-based economy, then the UK’s universities must double the amount of engineer graduates every year for the next 20 years, as the Telegraph outlines.
Calling All EngineersAccording to Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Britain has 43 areas of skills shortages across every type of engineering. “[S]kills shortages are becoming more acute, and risk acting as a break on our economic recovery,” explains Rob Wall, head of employment and education at CBI. Skills shortages are particularly felt in engineering, manufacturing and construction, all of which require high-skill sets.
In 2008, the global recession caused people to stop investing in new building projects, creating a scarcity of opportunities in the construction sector for everyone from bricklayers to architects. Savvy grads in engineering started to transfer their skills to other sectors, and as a result, about 400,000 workers leaving the industry since 2008 as Brickonomics reports. With the economic recovery and the recent boom in required building, these shortages threaten current house building targets.
Building Recruitment Techniques:The construction industry accounts for 7% of Britain’s GDP and the industry promises to grow, but only if it can find enough workers. In 2013, only 7,280 construction apprentices completed their training, but at least 35,000 new apprentices are needed each year. as the Guardian points out. The Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians believes the shortages are a result of “a 30-year failure to train apprentices.”
Employers argue that the government has too much of a hand in deciding what skill sets are necessary, and they seek to have more independent control over what students and apprentices learn.
According to Growth Through People, UKCES plans to create more vocational pathways in education and promote more apprenticeships in the coming years. Under this plan of action, educational institutions will encourage students to undertake work experience as part of their studies. Doing so will allow students to expand their CV experiences from an earlier age, making them more competitive after graduation.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that the construction industry has another challenge it’s trying to solve – women account for less than 10% of engineers in the UK, the lowest rate in Europe, as The Independent explains.
Dawn Bonfield, president of the Women’s Engineering Society, owes this shortage to girls being discouraged from a young age by teachers and parents to study maths and sciences. Promoting STEM education early is key to attracting women to the field and increasing engineer graduation rates.
Using Technology to Attract the Next Generation of Engineers
Video interviewing, for example, can help recruiters screen hundreds of potential candidates in less time than it traditionally takes to run phone interviews or other selection processes. It saves recruiters time getting the message out there, and when combined with a company’s winning employer brand, will ensure the organisation is always in the minds of the candidates looking for roles in the engineering and construction industries.
According to Khalit Ayub, Virgin Media’s Director of Campus Futures, the majority of grads are competing for the same jobs. Companies need to make their recruitment needs more transparent to attract students to industries with severe shortages.
Technology can help lessen the negative effects of engineering and construction shortages by offering a more flexible approach to the recruitment process, thereby allowing recruiters to find right-fit grads without having to attend every single university recruitment fair in person.
It’s not only a method favoured by recruiters, either. Using tools such as mobile applications sites, online video interviewing and digital application tracking process technology, candidates will be engaged throughout the process.
Video in Action
Virgin Media, like many employers in the STEM industry, was failing to attract a large number of suitable candidates for its graduate recruitment scheme. Why the lack of attention for the media mogul? Simple. Students didn’t know about it.
As part of its recruitment scheme, Virgin Media implemented video technology to efficiently interview 1200 applicants before shortlisting 140 for in-person interviews. LaunchPad’s video interviewing allows applicants and employers alike to realise if they’re suitable for one another from the onset, fostering better work relations in the long run.
STEM industries need to embrace technology to create an open dialogue with students and give graduates a better understanding of the skills needed and desired in the field. If students remain unaware of the possibilities available to them, they will continue to keep sending over-saturated sectors instead of finding exciting futures in open positions.
(Main image credit: J J/flickr)