The engineering industry accounts for nearly a fifth of the total UK workforce, but is in desperate need of new talent. If you have the right qualifications and technical skills, discover the engineering and manufacturing companies who'd be keen to take you on

What is engineering?

Concerned with the design, building, maintenance and use of engines, machines and structures, at its heart engineering is about problem solving and using your science, maths and technological ability to apply innovations to the real world.

Manufacturing on the other hand is the large scale production of products or goods that are then sold on to a customer.

The engineering and manufacturing sector is one of the UK's broadest and encompasses a range of disciplines. According to the industry's regulatory body, the Engineering Council, 18% of the UK's working population are involved with engineering, working out at around six million people.

Types of engineering and manufacturing

  • aerospace
  • applications
  • architecture
  • automotive
  • building services
  • chemical
  • civil
  • commercial
  • commissioning
  • computing and IT
  • construction
  • contracting
  • defence
  • design
  • electrical
  • electronics
  • environmental
  • estimator
  • facilities management
  • forensic
  • geotechnical
  • health and safety
  • hydrology
  • infrastructure
  • instrumentation and control systems
  • manufacturing
  • marine
  • materials
  • mechanical
  • petroleum, oil and gas
  • planning
  • plant
  • power
  • process
  • production
  • project management
  • quality
  • rail
  • research and development
  • site
  • software
  • surveying
  • systems
  • telecoms, digital communications and networks
  • test
  • transportation.

Industries that require qualified engineering and manufacturing graduates include:

  • automation and robotics
  • biotechnology
  • music
  • nuclear
  • pharmaceuticals
  • space.

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

Top engineering companies

Graduates are typically employed by large engineering firms, including:

  • Airbus
  • Arup
  • Aston Martin
  • Atkins
  • Babcock
  • BAE Systems
  • Bentley Motors
  • BMW Group
  • British Airways (BA)
  • Colas Rail
  • Dyson
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Kier Group
  • Mercedes
  • Network Rail
  • Nissan
  • Nucleargraduates
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Siemens
  • Sellafield
  • Thales Group
  • Transport for London (TfL).

Leading engineering consulting firms include:

  • Arup
  • Capgemini
  • EFESCO Management Consultants
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Sweco UK.

Despite these lists of major names, the engineering and manufacturing sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Therefore, most engineering graduates will work in smaller organisations. Read about working for a small business.

The major trade and membership organisations representing individuals and businesses across the sector, include:

Biggest manufacturing organisations

With a combined turnover of £309billion, the five leading manufacturing sectors are known as the Manufacturing Five (M5). These industries are represented by the:

Of these, the food and drink industry is the UK's biggest, contributing more to the economy than all other manufacturing sectors combined, including aerospace and automotive. Indeed, in 2022 it had a turnover of £128billion (14.4% of the total). It employed over 456,000 people across every region of the country.

Within this field, top food and drink manufacturing employers include:

  • Arla Foods
  • Associated British Foods
  • Britvic Soft Drinks
  • Coca-Cola
  • Diageo
  • Dunbia
  • Greencore Convenience Foods
  • Mars UK
  • Mondelez UK
  • Müller UK and Ireland
  • Nestlé
  • Ocado
  • Pladis Global
  • Tate & Lyle.

Other large manufacturing companies include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • British American Tobacco
  • CNH
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
  • MBDA
  • Rio-Tinto
  • Sellafield Ltd
  • TTI
  • Unilever.

Working in the engineering sector

Graduates can expect to:

  • work in a variety of locations depending on your specialism - from the office and factory floors to building sites, workshops, laboratories and plants
  • have opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD)
  • earn an average graduate salary in the region of £27,000 to £33,000
  • use creativity and problem-solving skills to design innovative products or tackle some of the world's most pressing challenges
  • travel locally and regionally between locations. Depending on your job, international travel could also be an option.

To discover more about salaries and working conditions for specific roles, see engineering and manufacturing job profiles.

Employment prospects

Graduates are highly sought-after by employers in this sector, with a huge range of engineering graduate schemes available, across a variety of disciplines.

You could try breaking into an area experiencing growth, such as:

  • Nuclear energy - The government wants nuclear power to eventually provide reliable, low carbon and cost competitive electricity. Explore getting a job in nuclear energy.
  • Renewable energy - Play a key role in helping to offset the impact of climate change. Read more about renewable energy careers.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)/Big data - AI is revolutionising the industry. Get a job as a machine learning engineer, or consider studying a big data course.
  • Food and drink manufacturing - As the biggest manufacturing sector, you could find yourself working in areas such as automation or developing new technologies.
  • Mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical and software engineering - Get the qualifications required to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng). Discover how to become an engineer.

Engineering skills shortages

The engineering sector in the UK is currently experiencing a skills shortage. This can be attributed to a number of factors, such as an ageing workforce, economic issues post-Brexit and a lack of education and awareness surrounding engineering among young people.

A number of engineering occupations feature on the government's shortage occupations list including:

  • civil
  • design and development
  • electrical
  • electronic
  • mechanical
  • production.

In the engineering sector, the following skills are highly valued by employers:

  • IT knowledge
  • a high level of numeracy and analytical ability
  • specific subject knowledge and technical aptitude
  • creative problem solving
  • attention to detail
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to project manage
  • commercial awareness.

Read more about the general skills employers want.

While the engineering sector is crucial not only to our economy, but also to our everyday lives, it isn't without its share of challenges - and not just in terms of skills shortages.

For instance, engineering and technology are at the heart of the race to net zero and in the future there will be hundreds of thousands of 'green jobs' for people with engineering skills.

Decarbonisation across the UK economy will rely on new, innovative engineering solutions conceived and realised by a diverse workforce. While much of the workforce tasked with delivering this transformation is already in employment, many are now coming through the education system.

Jobs are increasingly becoming available in solar, wind power, the electricity grid and electric vehicles, but engineers are also working on innovations in how we travel, how we power our lives, sustainable food production and planet-friendly fashion.

When it comes to diversity in engineering, there's plenty of room for improvement. To inspire young people into the profession, the sector needs to improve the quality, targeting, inclusivity and reach of activities designed to attract talent to the industry.

A community of over 300 organisations, including EngineeringUK, are working together to drive a new era of engagement that encourages more young people into engineering - through the Tomorrow's Engineers Code.

This is a commitment to a number of common goals covering how organisations fund, design, deliver and learn from engineering-inspiration activities. It's a growing community focused on increasing the diversity and number of young people entering engineering careers.

Sharing insights on what works well in terms of designing and targeting engineering outreach, committing to developing high quality activities and giving young people a reliable platform to access them, will help raise awareness of engineering careers.

One of the initiatives designed to encourage young people into engineering is through campaigns such as Tomorrow's Engineers Week held in November. You can also read about opportunities for women in engineering.

Find out more

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