What can we do about the engineering shortage?

August 23, 2021
Elisha Gray

Elisha Gray

Elisha Gray is our Divisional Manager for Technical Resources. She specialises in headhunting the best talent for technical and engineering roles within FM and Building Services.

Heading up an engineering recruitment team is tough at the best of times. But over the past few months, finding candidates has become increasingly difficult. Of course there are a number of reasons for this, Covid and Brexit notwithstanding, but the reality is there are not enough people entering the sector to meet the demand.
Despite engineering having one of the highest graduate employment rates, there remains a sector-wide skills shortage. And it’s not surprising – there’s a widespread lack of awareness around engineering as a career, how to get into it, and what kind of work it entails.
engineering shortage education

STEM education

Almost half (47%) of 11-19 yr olds don’t know what engineers do and 39% say they wouldn’t know what to do to become an engineer. A third of young people view engineering as too hard or boring, and two thirds believe STEM subjects to be harder than arts. If the numbers continue as they are, there will be nowhere near enough people entering engineering to meet the demand.

So how can we encourage more people to enter the field?

Well, from a recruiter’s perspective, here are four areas I would suggest Facilities Management companies could help:

STEM outreach

Studies show STEM outreach can and does work. Young people attending a STEM careers activity are over 3 times as likely to consider a career in engineering than those who had not. Giving young people a chance to see the value of STEM subjects and the impact of engineering leads to an increase in people studying them.

Gender diversity

Engineering has historically been a sector dominated by men. The number of women entering the field has almost doubled over the past decade. This is great, but they’re still outnumbered by men at 4:1. Encouraging women in engineering apprenticeships and actively recruiting women expands your talent pool. Not only that, you’ll nurture new candidates within the industry. If there’s an engineering shortage, then making the career choice more accessible for women is a sure fire way to fix it.

Engineering funding

Offering funding for young people to undertake engineering training will also have a positive impact. This is especially important for attracting candidates from low socio-economic backgrounds.

University feed are spiralling. There’s a lack of knowledge around pathways into engineering. Offering funding for a range of different forms of study would boost candidate numbers and help the engineering shortage long term.

Whether taking a hands-on route and gaining a NEBOSH whilst working, doing a degree in engineering, or taking on an apprenticeship, offering young people a range of options and financial support to train will result in a fresh talent pool. And that talent will have loyalty to your organisation.

Veteran training

Many people leaving the Armed Forces find themselves with a challenging transition into employment. But, a large number already have a lot of the skills and knowledge required to move into the field of engineering. 

FM companies would be well placed to reach out to veterans. Supporting them through fast-track engineering qualifications would increase engineering numbers quickly. Its effect would be more immediate than the early intervention work I’ve mentioned.

Interim candidates

These four options cover long and medium-term strategies to increase engineering candidate numbers. But even short-term ideas take some time to implement. When you have vacancies that need filling right now, you need an immediate answer to the engineering shortage.

As an engineering recruitment specialist, I’ve seen the numbers of candidates reduce over the past 6 months. I’ve spoken with clients who are struggling to find talent to fill their vacancies.

For hiring managers in this position, my advice would be to consider hiring an contractor or interim candidate. They’ll be able to provide a safe and knowledgeable pair of hands. And that’ll give you time to find the right people for your team long term.


Unless we take action soon, we’ll see the shortage of high-calibre engineers entering the industry become increasingly apparent. This is bound to have serious repercussions within the FM sector. Innovation, productivity and creativity will take a hit.

Is it time to start thinking outside the box?