Addressing the National Engineering Skills Challenge: Defence Skills Survey 2020

Guest blog written by Emma Booth, Defence Engagement Lead at Serco

With this week being National Coding Week, and against the backdrop of an engineering profession at the cutting edge of digitalisation there is a need for more effective collective actions with regards to skills. This will ensure engineers continue to upskill within the profession, continuing to innovate and protect the United Kingdom by being at the forefront of new technologies.

It is because of this, that earlier this week the Defence Suppliers Forum (DSF) Skills and People Group launched the biennial Skills Survey which aims to assess attitudes to engineering across the Defence Enterprise and to provide tangible evidence to underpin the long-term issues that are impacting recruiting and retention within the Defence sector.

Purpose

Addressing the national engineering skills challenge is a common strategic issue for both the Ministry of Defence and industry.

The DSF Skills and People Group is a collaborative initiative drawing together Defence and Industry to address common challenges. It is establishing a landscape view of the skills that underpin a successful and resilient human capability in Defence.

The survey is aimed at engineers and those who represent engineers across the Defence Enterprise, including the Services, industry, academia and professional bodies.

Strategic Context

The wider national engineering skills shortage is reflected within the recently published EngineeringUK report: ‘The State of Engineering 2020’ which supports the need to assemble a landscape view of the Defence engineering enterprise, so that we may all understand collective opportunities to mitigate the challenge and risk facing the engineering profession as a whole.

The forecast shortfall in engineering graduates (level 4+) of 20,000 remains front and centre of the list of issues facing the Defence Engineering Enterprise. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that only 9% of engineering and technology employees in the UK are women; highlighting that access and availability, including gender diversity remains a particular challenge for the Defence sector.

Summary

The DSF is well placed to lead on sector-wide issues and the 2020 Skills Survey will seek to follow the themes it generates to influence policy on the issues identified, build and analyse the supporting evidence, and help develop a common language to describe the issues which are collectively faced.

The challenges facing the engineering profession is both significant and widespread. However, it is of vital importance that we look to address these issues by influencing policy through focused action based on robust and relevant evidence to drive forward effective change.