The poor relations?

The subject of this country's ongoing engineering skills shortage is one that Eureka has covered many times. This, of course, is because it continues to represent a significant long-term threat to the prosperity of the manufacturing sector and, by extension, the UK economy as a whole.

What is also clear from the responses we receive whenever we write about skills is that the subject clearly touches a nerve with the readership of this magazine. One of the regular complaints from readers on this subject is that engineering as a profession is poorly paid. This is a vexed question, as many organisations point to figures that say engineering compares favourably in terms of pay with other careers.

Nonetheless, the perception persists and remains probably the most frequently-raised issue by readers of Eureka in relation to engineering's ability to attract young people. Thus, whatever the statistics may say, there is nonetheless a strong belief among engineers themselves that their profession is poorly paid.

The temptation with the skills crisis has long been for manufacturing industry to lay the blame for it at the door of external agencies such as government, academia and the media. However, there is a question as to whether industry needs to look at its own role in this and ask whether it has been guilty of historically underpaying engineers and is now to some extent reaping what it has sown.

As mentioned earlier, the question is hotly disputed, but what is beyond doubt that there is at the very least a perception of engineering being poorly paid that simply must be addressed if we are to have any hope of winning the skills war.

Paul Fanning

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