A Look at the Engineering Landscape in 2013
Despite the headlines and the gloomy economic forecasts, the UK's engineering sector has weathered the economic downturn surprisingly well. The sector actually grew across 2012, and continues to offer a range of competitive graduate positions for employees at the start of their careers. Currently, the UK's engineering and manufacturing industries employ more than 8 million people - making it the 7th largest sector of its kind in the world.
Engineers can find work in a variety of environments, but traditional fields, like aerospace, automotive, electrical and mining, provide work for millions of employees each year. Positions offered by employers are, more and more frequently, available only to applicants with degree qualifications - but average wages for entry-level graduates are over £25,000.
Some of the main employers in the graduate engineering sector include Airbus, BAE Systems and Boeing in the aerospace industry, BMW, Ford and Jaguar in automotive and BP and Shell in oil and gas.
As the UK moves out of the economic crisis, one of the most promising sectors in engineering employment is the renewable energy sector. Driven by government initiatives to promote green energy - and with an eye on future sustainability - renewable projects are generating growing demand for specialist engineers. In a recent study, 57% of senior engineers identified renewable energy as the main growth area for the engineering industry in the coming years.
Currently, green technologies are worth £3 trillion to the global economy. The problem the engineering industry faces, especially in the UK, is producing enough candidates with skills specific to the challenges of the renewable sector. The new demands placed on engineers reflect the changing nature of their role - as the landscape evolves, engineers are being asked to approach their jobs differently, communicating with non-engineering staff and funding partners to find complex solutions to problems.
Nuclear power is another growing prospect for the engineering sector and would potentially bring millions of jobs to the UK market. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster put a dent in the energy's reputation however, and although the UK government proposed 8 sites for new nuclear power plants, their future is far from guaranteed.
As the UK's engineering industry continues its slow march back to health, there's a concern that many engineers will be lured out of the country by lucrative projects abroad. Huge mining operations in Western Australia are generating thousands of skilled engineering jobs, while the decadent Asian markets see new, flamboyant architectural wonders springing up on an almost monthly basis. Remuneration for these positions is impressive - but what tempts most engineers is the chance to work on a sensational and famous project.
Figures show around 587,000 new workers will need to be recruited into the engineering and manufacturing sector by 2017 - but the question is: will it be the same sector? As green energy continues to take hold and advances in technology transform the industry, the ability of engineers to adapt to these factors will define their role for years to come.
Where do you see the Engineering Industry going in 2013?
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