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Overview of the engineering and manufacturing sector in the UK

Overview of the engineering and manufacturing sector in the UK

Engineers are in demand and over the next few years there will be 1.86 million vacancies that require engineering skills

What areas of engineering and manufacturing can I work in?

There are a range of industries to consider:

  • aerospace;
  • automation and robotics;
  • automotive;
  • biotechnology;
  • chemical;
  • civil engineering;
  • electrical;
  • electronics;
  • food and drink;
  • marine;
  • medical and pharmaceutical;
  • metals, minerals and materials;
  • nuclear;
  • oil and gas;
  • space.

There are opportunities for mechanical, electrical, electronic or chemical engineers within many of these industries. You could choose to work in a design, research and development, production or maintenance function.

The food and drink industry is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, employing more than 400,000 workers. While medical and pharmaceutical companies employ large numbers of people in research and development.

You could also look at the construction, IT, utilities and transport job sectors for further opportunities in engineering and manufacturing.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in engineering and manufacturing.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Some of the main companies in the aerospace industry are:

  • Airbus;
  • BAE Systems;
  • Boeing;
  • Thales Group.

The top UK employers in the automotive industry include:

  • BMW Group;
  • Ford;
  • Jaguar Land Rover (JLR);
  • Nissan;
  • Rolls-Royce;
  • Toyota.

Household names in the food and drink manufacturing industry include:

  • Heinz;
  • Mondelez International;
  • Nestlé.

In oil and gas the main companies are:

  • BP;
  • ExxonMobil;
  • Schlumberger;
  • Shell.

Other large companies who recruit engineers include:

  • Dyson;
  • GlaxoSmithKline;
  • Proctor and Gamble;
  • Siemens.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the engineering and manufacturing sector can expect:

  • to work in different environments depending on the industry. You could work in a factory, office, laboratory or even on an oil rig;
  • to have a mean average starting salary of £26,019. This is the second highest for graduates according to the HESA Destination of Leavers in Higher Education Survey 2012/13;
  • to work differing hours depending on your role: off-shore engineering assignments require shift work, typically 12 hours on 12 hours off, manufacturing may require working evenings and weekends, while those working in an office will have a 9am to 5pm working week.

What are the key issues in the engineering and manufacturing sector?

According to the Engineering UK 2014 report, overall demand for engineering and manufacturing recruits is up by 40% compared to June 2012. There are a number of areas where recruitment is on the increase including:

  • Aerospace - a global increase in air traffic means this industry is expected to grow at a rate of 6.8% over the next few years.
  • Automotive - there is a need for engineers that can design and manufacture innovative and high quality components.
  • Oil and gas - currently employing more than 400,000 people across the UK, a renewed interest in North Sea oil and shale gas production could create 74,000 jobs by 2030.
  • Nuclear - over the coming decades the industry is set for global expansion, including new nuclear reactors and decommissioning those that are coming off line.

Other growth areas include: renewable energy; finding sustainable ways to grow food, build houses and travel; and advances in medical technology for an ageing population. There is also an increasing need for research and development into use of automation and robotics to perform functions for us.

Written by Editor, Prospects
September 2014

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