Almost eight in 10 (77%) engineering employers in the UK do not have the skills needed to be resilient to climate change, according to a new survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology
New research has raised serious concerns about engineering education and industry’s capability to respond to climate change.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) survey found that workers at two-thirds (65%) of UK firms are worried about the impact of climate change on their organisation.
Amongst the companies that claim to have a sustainability strategy, three-quarters (76%) require additional skills to implement it.
The international survey, carried out by YouGov in August and September, spoke to 2,142 engineering employees in the UK, the US, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
It found that while a third of UK engineering employers have a sustainability strategy that includes making their organisation net zero, employers say they lack specialist sustainability skills, knowledge, whole-systems thinking, and agile mindsets.
Despite a willingness to “upskill” workers, companies in the UK were the least likely to offer training in new technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and simulation, the survey found.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of UK respondents agreed that the education system does not prepare graduates well for industry.
To tackle this, 44% of employers suggest more industry placements, and 34% think more industry-targeted projects will better prepare graduates.
Stephanie Baxter, head of policy at the IET, said: “The skills deficit means we are not ready and resilient to tackle climate change, both in the UK and beyond. Net zero needs the trifecta of an industrial strategy, innovation funding, and support for upskilling the UK workforce to become more internationally competitive.
“Agility and whole-systems thinking are key skills for reaching net zero and adapting to climate change, and more should be done to encourage this in the workforce.
“It is vital businesses prioritise training and upskilling for employees that focuses on resilience skills, particularly around innovative thinking and problem solving.”
Baxter added: “Industry confidence in the UK’s education pipeline is remarkably low by international standards – so greater collaboration between industry and universities is required. This includes targeting placements in areas of critical skill deficit, such as nuclear technologies and digital twins.
“Employers are missing an opportunity on digitalisation and net zero. We need UK government to help facilitate upskilling in the sustainable use of technologies, such as AI and digital twins, where skills…are expected to be more important than ever in the future.”