Overview of the engineering and manufacturing sector in the UK
Engineers are in extremely high demand; between now and 2022, more than one million job vacancies will require engineering skills
What areas of engineering and manufacturing can I work in?
According to EngineerJobs, there are many branches of engineering. These are:
- building services;
- computing and IT;
- facilities management;
- health and safety;
- instrumentation and control systems;
- petroleum, oil and gas;
- project management;
- research and development;
- telecoms, digital communications and networks;
Industries that require suitably qualified engineering and manufacturing graduates include space, music, nuclear, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and automation and robotics. The food and drink industry is the UK's largest single engineering and manufacturing sector, employing more than 400,000 workers.
Mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical and software engineers are particularly sought after, with design, production and maintenance opportunities existing in numerous industries. Science and pharmaceutical companies employ large numbers of people in research and development.
For more examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in engineering and manufacturing.
Who are the main graduate employers?
Graduates are employed by large companies, including:
- Airbus, BAE Systems and Thales Group (aerospace industry);
- Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce (automotive industry);
- Heinz, Mondelēz International and Nestlé (food and drink industry);
- BP, ExxonMobil and Schlumberger (oil and gas industry).
Other large companies that recruit engineers include P&G, Siemens and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Despite this, the engineering and manufacturing sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Most graduates of this discipline, therefore, work in smaller organisations.
What's it like working in the sector?
Graduates can expect to:
- enjoy continuing professional development (CPD), perhaps working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng);
- receive an average starting salary of around £27,000;
- use their creativity and problem-solving skills to design innovative products or tackle some of the world's most pressing challenges;
- work differing hours depending on the role, with some projects and assignments - such as disaster relief work - requiring greater flexibility;
- work in differing environments depending on the industry, with work locations including laboratories, hospitals, offices and factories;
- work in multidisciplinary teams with colleagues from different job sectors and backgrounds.
To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.
What are the key issues in the engineering and manufacturing sector?
According to Engineering UK 2016, engineering accounts for around a quarter of UK turnover, with around 5.4 million people employed within the sector. An additional 257,000 new recruits are required by 2022 to meet skills needs, and this has the potential to generate an additional £27billion per year for the economy.
However, the UK education system doesn't currently have the capacity or rate of growth required to meet this demand - there are currently only half as many graduates as employers need. This means that job prospects for graduates in engineering and manufacturing are fantastic.
Sectors that are enjoying particularly impressive levels of growth include:
- Aerospace - Estimates suggest that there'll be global demand for 27,000 new passenger planes and 40,000 new commercial helicopters by 2031.
- Chemicals - This directly employs more than 110,000 people in companies dealing with household products, food, medicine and process technologies.
- Petroleum, oil and gas - The Institute of Directors (IoD) claims that shale gas production could create 74,000 jobs by 2030.
- Space - This industry has an average annual growth rate of 7.5%.
Other expanding areas of work include: renewable energy, finding sustainable ways to grow food, build houses and travel; advances in medical technology for an ageing population; and research and development into the use of automation and robotics.
Indeed, the pace of technological development is such that many of the jobs that engineers will be doing in a decade don't yet exist. Think back ten years: who would've known what an app developer was?
The essential guide to the sector
Take a look at the latest graduate opportunities, discover what challenges the engineering sector is facing and what it's doing to address the gender imbalance.