Manufacturing and the gender gap to innovation

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a digital revolution. New business models around customer demand, production, speed and enhanced software programming are breathing new life into this industry.

Manufacturing in the 21st century is a high-tech fusion of software and mechanical engineering, automated processes and complex production equipment, 3D CAD models and rapidly produced on-demand parts. Meeting these requirements means the next generation of engineers, developers and designers need to be on board.

However, Britain is facing a pressing shortage of engineers. According to the latest Engineering UK report, the engineering industry needs to recruit 1.82 million engineers by 2022. The reality is the UK is training less than a third of the 75,000 new engineers it needs each year to plug the country’s skills gap.

Recruitment is becoming one of the manufacturing industry’s biggest challenges and action is required to change this.

Engineering in the UK: the state of play

According to the recently published Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering’s report, the UK has less enthusiasm for engineering than any other leading nation. Barely one in five British teenagers express an interest in the subject, compared to half of young Germans and more than two thirds of young Chinese. Moreover, half of British 16 and 17 year-olds say that engineering is “not prestigious or respected enough” to be appealing as a career path.

Filling the demand for new engineering jobs is more important than many people realise. In the UK economy alone it has the potential to generate an additional revenue of £27 billion per year from 2022, enough to pay for 1,800 schools or 110 hospitals, according to Engineering UK 2015 research.

The former Minister of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy, Matthew Hancock, also recently emphasised how “vital” it is to inspire young people into STEM careers in order to address the current skills gap.

Hancock talked about the importance of ensuring that children understand the routes available to them, and how they should be encouraged to think about their options from primary school

Bridging the gender divide

The engineering and manufacturing industries need more women in the workplace. Of note, women disappointingly account for only 8.2% of professional engineers today.

Furthermore, a study by Accenture revealed that women fill less than a quarter of UK positions in STEM-related careers.

The shortage of women is largely due to the lack of information available to girls and their parents on available options with regards to STEM careers. There is also a perception that STEM subjects are overly difficult and the resulting careers are more suitable for boys.

Increasing the profile of the industry would attract more women to start careers in engineering and manufacturing. This includes promoting the increasingly diversified workplace options now on offer across the broad spectrum of this field.

>See also: Technology's number one careers fair for women

In partnership with the education system, the manufacturing sector could explore implementing training and vocational course specifically targeted at women for a more diverse generation of ‘makers’.

As young women are concerned about job prospects, the opportunity is now to present the option of a highly respected, rewarding and possibly well-paid profession.

Moreover, the digital manufacturing evolution being experienced today is opening doors towards new and more exciting STEM career opportunities within the industry.


Sourced from Sarah-Jane Bayliss, Proto Labs

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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