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The Job Market

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  • Women are under-represented in the engineering sector - the UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe: 9% of UK engineering professionals compared with 18% in Spain and 26% in Sweden, for instance. Only 4% of current engineering apprentices are female
  • There is also a problem with attracting large numbers of young people into the profession, even though there are excellent chances to progress - this is partly due to fewer people studying maths and physics at a higher level (although numbers have recently risen)
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology shows that one in five employers is concerned that they will not be able to find suitable engineering candidates to recruit in the next few years - engineering in the UK is not always seen as being particularly high status, which could be one reason why people are not as attracted to it
  • Overall, salaries inengineering may not seem as high as in some sectors but hour per hour, engineering can pay as well as many other professions - and people with professional engineering qualifications often head up huge companies. Also, well qualified and experiencedworkers can command high daily salaries, especially in the oil processing sector
  • There are also plenty of opportunities to travel overseas on short or longer term engineering projects
  • Engineering and manufacturing are strongly linked - manufacturing is one of the biggest employers of engineers and, even though it has been in decline for many years, it is still vital to the UK economy
  • Important manufacturing sectorsinclude aerospace and defence (UK defence exports are worth £4 billion), car production (although the fortunes of car manufacturers vary every few years), pharmaceuticals, and the production of food and drinks (which is the UK's largest manufacturing sector)
  • Around half a million people are employed in the food sector. Most companies are small and so unlikely to employ engineers but in the larger ones (such as Allied Bakeries, Tate and Lyle, and Coco-Cola), engineers are needed
  • The recession has affected the manufacturing sector, and numerous major companies have seen job losses in the last few years, including Canadian train manufacturers Bombardier in Derby, pharmaceutical company Pfizer (losing more than 2000 staff) and Britain's largest manufacturer, and Europe's largest arms dealer, BAE,losingaround 9000 jobs at sites across the UK Growth sectors in engineering include the UK electronics industry (the fifth largest in the world) and the UK leisure boatbuilding manufacturing industry.


 Aerospace and Defence Engineering

  • The UK aerospace industry is the second largest in the world employing over 250,000 people.
  • More than 85,000 people work in engineering-related occupations in the aerospace industry, from craft level to senior roles, and around 40,000 are in technical roles.
  • There is currently a skills shortage of suitably qualified aerospace engineering technicians and of suitably qualified aerospace engineers.
  • The UK aerospace industry is the largest in the world outside the USA.
  • Engineers working in Defence include those working for the Armed Forces, as well as those working for the Ministry of Defence. 'QuinticQ', based in the West Midlands region, is the UK's defence procurement company and recruits around 300 graduates each year.
  • There are career opportunities for aerospace engineers with aerospace manufacturers and airline operators. Other employers include the armed forces, government departments and agencies. Their skills are also in demand by manufacturers of other vehicles, such as hovercraft, cars and trains.
  • There are clusters of aerospace companies around the UK, including in the Midlands and western England.
  • There are also opportunities overseas with British firms of consulting engineers working for foreign governments or with overseas aircraft construction companies.

Chemical Engineering

  • Around 250,000 people are employed in the chemical industry in the UK with opportunities in a wide range of sectors.
  • Employers include companies involved in oil and gas, chemical and allied products, food, energy and pharmaceuticals, and organisations that design and construct production plant. Opportunities also exist with central government departments and government agencies. Employers range from large international companies and research organisations, to smaller companies.
  • There are opportunities for chemical engineers and technicians throughout the UK. Job prospects are very good and there may be opportunities to work overseas.
  • The pharmaceuticals industry is sheltered from the economic cycle because governments are a major purchaser. However, strain on healthcare budgets in recent years has seen many governments turning to generic drugs and encouraging self-medication. Generic drugs can sell for up to 90% less than brand-name drugs, while over-the-counter drugs are bought directly by the consumer - generic drugs are typically produced by smaller firms, whereas the market for prescription and over-the-counter drugs is dominated by global pharmaceuticals firms.

 Electrical and electronic engineering

  • There are opportunities for qualified electrical engineers and electrical engineering technicians in a wide range of industries including aerospace, marine, agricultural, chemical, civil, energy and medical.  Employers across the UK include local and central government, manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies, IT companies, public utility organisations, such as water, gas and electricity and the armed forces.
  • Electrical engineers and technicians can also be employed in a range of functions, including design, marketing, sales and customer support. The growth of computer technology has led to an increased role for electrical engineers in this area of work.
  • There are opportunities for electronics engineers and technicians in a wide range of industries. Some of the main ones are aerospace, marine, agricultural, chemical, energy and medical industries.
  • Employers across the UK include manufacturers in all industries, research and development companies, IT and telecommunications companies, local and central government, the armed forces and public utilities, such as water, gas and electricity companies.
  • Job prospects are excellent, as electronics is a huge (and still expanding) international industry - the opportunities for working overseas are considerable. Rapid developments in telecommunications, robotics and digital technology are bringing a steady demand for electronics engineers and technicians, and there are skills shortages in some areas.

Materials Engineering

  • Materials engineers are employed in many different industrial and manufacturing sectors including construction, construction engineering, building services, electronics, shipbuilding, aerospace, motor sport, power generation, railways, biomedical engineering, vehicle and consumer goods manufacture, and also newer industries such as nanotechnology and biomimetics (copying, and taking ideas from nature).
  • There is currently a shortage of skilled workers in materials engineering and there are opportunities throughout the UK and overseas.
  • Employers range from huge multinational companies to universities, government agencies and small research laboratories.
  • The UK metals sector is made up of around 15,000 companies employing over 400,000 people, including about 7,000 metallurgists - specialist materials engineers and scientists who work with metal.
  • Around 14,000 companies are involved in polymer processing, including those who do the work as a secondary part of their business. The industry employs around 280,000 people, including polymer technicians who can work for a range of manufacturers.
  • Polymer science is an expanding area. New companies will continue to develop across the country as new uses are found for plastic, rubber and composite materials in the home, industry and medical profession. There is currently a shortage of qualified polymer technicians.

Mechanical Engineering

  • Mechanical engineers work across all types of engineering activity. Around 75,000 engineers worldwide are members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).
  • Employers include aerospace and automotive industries, gas, electricity and nuclear companies, engineering construction companies, government agencies, manufacturing industries, oil and gas industries, including petrochemical industries, process industries, pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics, the Civil Service, local councils, hospitals and educational institutions, transport, including road and railways and the water industry.
  • SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council, estimates that 10,000 qualified mechanical engineering technicians will be needed in the aerospace, automotive, electronics and marine sectors over the next ten years. There are many opportunities across the UK and there tends to be a shortage of skilled level 3 workers.

Medical Engineering

  • Most clinical engineers work in the NHS, although they are also employed by universities, research establishments such as the Medical Research Council and manufacturers of medical equipment, and in private sector health care. Experienced clinical engineers can also be self-employed or work as consultants.
  • There are only a few hundred clinical engineers in the UK, and relatively few new posts become available.

Engineering in the West Midlands

  • The West Midlands accounts for 17% of all Engineering employment and 15% of all engineering employers in Great Britain.
  • The engineering industry in the West Midlands employs 213,000 employees in 10,430 engineering firms.
  • 93% of engineering firms in the West Midlands employ less than 50 people.
  • The largest sectors in terms of employment are metal products, mechanical equipment and automotive (retail, repair and manufacture).
  • The West Midlands has particular concentrations of employment in the automotive and metals sectors when compared to the rest of Great Britain.
  • The automotive production industry has seen a local decline with fewer opportunities for automotive product engineers. Other automotive engineering areas, such as vehicle maintenance have been more stable. There are skills shortages at automotive engineer level as cars become more technological - with electronic and computer systems used as standard on new and recent models.
  • The largest concentrations of engineering employment are located around Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Dudley and Telford and Wrekin.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 5 Engineers work in manufacturing in the UK so this is one of the largest engineering sectors.