Engineering immigration shoots up to meet infrastructure demand

Briefing begins the week with a look at The Engineer’s latest weekly poll, which is focused on immigration and skills.

There’s still time to place your vote on our homepage or comment on the options given as a response to the assertion that Britain should loosen its immigration regulations in order to attract the best talent.

So far, 34 per cent of respondents agree with the statement that Britain should concentrate more on training the existing UK workforce rather than relax the rules on immigration.

The simple fact remains that Britain is having to import skilled engineers, as found by SJD Accountancy, a contractor services provider to the engineering sector.

They’ve announced that the number of non-EU engineers coming to Britain has risen by 36 per cent over the past year.

Home Office figures show 1,171 engineers from non-EU countries entering the UK in 2013/14, up from 859 in 2012/13. 



SJD say the numbers refer to work permits issued to non-EU engineers filling roles on the Home Office’s National Shortage Occupation list.

Candidates sponsored by employers on the National Shortage Occupation list can obtain a work permit under a fast track scheme and occupations include civil, mechanical and electrical engineers.

SJD further claim that many more engineers are being sourced overseas than those sponsored for jobs on the UK National Shortage Occupation list, which itself is ‘a statistically important measure of demand for engineering skills across the board, as well as for specific areas of high priority’. 


Simon Curry, CEO of SJD Accountancy, said: ‘Despite widespread awareness of the severity of the [skills] issue, little progress is being made.

‘The recession provided some breathing space for employers and the government to address the chronic underproduction of engineering skills in the UK. However, we are still seeing too many UK-trained engineers choosing other careers or leaving the country after they have qualified.

‘With the government determined to increase expenditure on major infrastructure projects, the holes in the UK’s engineering skills base are being brutally exposed.’

Spending on infrastructure projects alone has risen from around £41bn annually 2005-10 to £45bn annually 2011-13 and last December’s National Infrastructure Plan outlined plans to spend £375bn on infrastructure projects up to 2030 and beyond.

This, the company asserts, will add more pressure on the UK’s engineering talent pool at a time when the supply of skills is already struggling to cope with demand. 



Furthermore, only 8.5 per cent of engineers are women, a situation that organisations such as WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) are all too keen to redress.

It isn’t unusual at Engineer Towers to speak to female engineers to seek their opinions as to why women are so underrepresented in the profession.

One refrain is a lack of role models, a situation WISE aims to reverse with its WISE Awards to be held on November 13, at the Grange Hotel Tower Bridge, London.

The awards are designed to acknowledge ‘28 individuals and organisations for their outstanding contribution to the representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)’ and the shortlisted nominees were announced on Friday 10 October 2014.

The Making the Case shortlist contains five categories of award for girls and women working in STEM, from “Girl” to “Lifetime Achievement”. Building and Sustaining the Pipeline recognises four categories of individuals or organisations that have increased the recruitment, retention and progression of women in STEM organisations or sectors where women are currently under-represented.

WISE tell us that a limited number of tickets are still available for WISE Awards 2014, with all enquiries to Shagufta Sharif at s.sharif@wisecampaign.org.uk or on 01274 724009.

One female engineer who is no stranger to The Engineer is spacecraft engineer Abbie Hutty, whose sector is growing at an at over seven per cent a year.

This buoyant outlook has been posted by the UK Space Agency in its biennial study into sector’s progress.

Titled ‘The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry’, the report shows that space is worth £11.3bn to the UK economy, employs over 34,000 people and supports a further 65,000 jobs in other sectors.

The UK is targeting 10 per cent of the global space market by 2030 and cautious optimism surrounds expectations for future growth beyond 2014.