Graduates failing to engineer a career

Nearly a quarter of UK engineering graduates are working in non-graduate jobs or unskilled work such as waiting and shopfloor jobs. So much for the skills shortage...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 08 Sep 2011
As few as 46% of 2009 engineering graduates were in jobs directly related to their degree subject six months after leaving university. About 20% were employed in roles that weren’t directly related to their degree, with around 24% in ‘non-graduate’ employment - like working as waiters or in shops.

It calls to mind the classic old jibe about geography students, which could now twisted to: ‘What do you say to an engineering graduate who's just got a new job? Can I have a Big Mac please.’

We thought there was supposed to be a shortage of engineers and scientists? Perhaps not. The report – with the handy title Is there a shortage of scientists? – was compiled by researchers from Birmingham University to present to the British Educational Research Association (Bera) annual conference in London. It analysed figures from 1986 to 2009 from the Higher Education Statistical Agency and found that it’s ‘not easy or automatic’ for qualified engineers to find related employment in the UK.

So how come the nation’s young engineering nous is now limited to super-sizing people’s fry portions? The report suggests that recent initiatives to encourage more scientists may have over-compensated – there’s now too many for the amount of vacancies. The other option it says is that the graduates may just not be good enough any more. But it concludes that the whole idea that there was ever a shortage may just have been wrong in the first place.

The CBI has come out insisting that employers still complain of a shortage of suitably qualified and employable candidates. Its director for education and skills policy, Susan Anderson described the science shortage as ‘an issue for businesses’, adding that businesses were worried about the lack of ‘practical workplace experience or employability skills’. This report suggests that they're not looking hard enough, or in the right places. Maybe those employers need to start headhunting under the golden arches…

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