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How Emerging Technology Will Impact Skills & Education In The Engineering Industry

After reading our latest blog on ‘Industry Tech Trends To Watch Out For In 2021’, you’re probably left wondering how this increased implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in all parts of the engineering process will impact skills and education in our industry. 

There is no doubt that since the pandemic hit last March, the UK jobs market has changed substantially. Not only has emerging technologies changed the nature of work, like reducing the need to perform repetitive manual tasks, it has changed the way we think about work. Automation enables workers to focus on more important tasks like problem solving, designing products, interpreting data and allows businesses to work smarter and faster. 

The pace of innovation has also resulted in the creation of new industries, opportunities and job roles, as well as a greater need for technical skills. Future skills will need to be a lot broader than are currently being taught, as more traditional engineering will need to be combined with people skills, environmental awareness, adaptability and communications. These essential skills will become the foundation to technical knowledge, as employers will begin to seek out candidates that can continuously learn new skills and adapt quickly to our changing landscape. While the tech industry changes at such a rapid pace, the ability to learn new things will become invaluable. 

The government’s response to emerging tech has been the recognition that it will play a crucial role in securing our future growth and prosperity. As a country that celebrates innovation and embraces technological advancements, the government has challenged the UK to increase productivity so that we have the potential to become a global leader in the field of tech developments. Government funded initiatives such as the UK’s Industrial Strategy, 4 Grand Challenges and our commitment to zero emission targets are also serving as a boost to investment in skills, industries and infrastructure. 

A combination of these high-profile projects and new wave of technologies are naturally creating high demand for engineers, and we’re certainly seeing this translating into job vacancies. In particular, we are seeing new roles created within software, future mobility, electronics, data analytics, cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced materials, automation and robotics. According to LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs report for 2020, the UK’s top-three emerging jobs are Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Data Protection Officer and Robotics Engineer. 

Despite the emergence of new roles, we believe that the demand for existing maintenance roles within robotics engineering and automation will continue as there will always be a need for the physical aspect of maintaining the production machines, along with their repair and installation. Although emerging technology is helping to improve the efficiency and speed of the production line or automated distribution centre, the human aspect of ensuring their functionality is maintained and streamlined will not cease to exist. 

This increase in demand combined with the government’s ambitious plans for technical development have led to a shortage of engineers and skills in the UK. It is clear that changes need to be made to the technical education landscape in the midst of significant change, with a boost in further education funding and the introduction of new apprenticeship standards. The vision of the future will demand a new generation of talent and long standing issues in our industry will need to be addressed when it comes to training, attracting and retaining new talent. Existing challenges such as a lack of diversity among apprentices, STEM teacher shortages and an aging workforce can’t be overlooked. 

There is no doubt that our future is bright and exciting, as our industry will radically transform and improve the ways in which we live and work together with the latest innovations in technology. Although widely respected, engineering still isn’t considered as the most accessible or interesting career choice by young people. There seems to be a general lack of understanding about the vast opportunities available in the engineering industry, as well as the high-level of future earning potential. This is why it is so incredibly important for those of us that work in the engineering sector, whether that’s directly or indirectly, to showcase the endless possibilities available to those who choose to pursue a career in engineering. 

Initiatives such as Year of Engineering, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, Tech She Can, STEM ambassadors, Business Enterprise Advisors and the implementation of Gatsby Benchmarks are doing just that and aim to alter people’s pre-existing perceptions about engineering in order to inspire the next generation of innovators. Our founder Ruth Forster works as an Enterprise Advisor as we also want to help overturn mis-judged preconceptions of an engineer’s world of work. There has simply never been a better time to pursue a career in engineering and we want to ensure every young person receives the necessary guidance to make informed decisions about their future. Ruth partners with local secondary schools and helps to develop a strong careers programme that supports pathways into our industry, bridging the gap between education and engineering. We want to play a part in helping to shape its future and believe we have the responsibility to help embed labour market information and opportunities about our careers at the heart of young people’s education.  

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