Engineering Jobs and Skills in the UK: What Is Needed?

Published on Jun 8, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

Automation and innovation are in full swing across all UK sectors. Businesses want everything faster, more efficient, and more innovative than ever - and engineers play a big part in making that happen. With the technology and science sectors advancing at lightning speed, how do engineering roles change to adapt to new requirements? And what does the future of this occupation look like? 

The Lightcast team works with various professional bodies to deliver tailored research projects and develop insightful reports which can be sector or occupation-specific. Most recently, our Head of Global Research, Elena Magrini, and our Economic Analyst, Jeff Dwan-O’Reilly, produced “Engineering skills needs – now and into the future,” commissioned by EngineeringUK. While the report offers highly detailed information and projections, we put together some of its key findings in this blog.

The demand for engineers in the UK

Using the EngineeringUK 'engineering footprint', this report looks at 96 occupations linked to engineering, splitting them into 13 thematic groups, such as civil, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and electrical engineering.

Between October 2021 and September 2022, engineering occupations comprised  25% of all job postings in the UK. Talk about demand for a role, right? Within engineering, ICT and Software Engineers accounted for the largest share of job postings.

Comparing the recruitment levels of 2016/2017 and those of 2021/2022, demand for all engineering occupations has grown - particularly during Covid-19. Operatives, skilled construction trades, and water, air and waste roles are the engineering areas that have seen the most growth in recruitment activity (an astonishing growth of 78%, 58% and 50% respectively).

Engineering currently accounts for 19% of all UK jobs, but for 25% of all UK job postings, which means that the recruitment market for engineering is quite active. The future is looking bright for engineers in the UK too, with demand for these occupations  expected to grow 2.8% by 2030 (a further 173,000 net new jobs). This growth rate is higher than the national average for all occupations, which is projected to sit at around 2.3%. 

Job trend projections for engineering in the UK

What skills do engineers need?

From software to mechanical, chemical to aerospace, engineering covers a vast range of sectors and specialisations. Therefore, the skills required for this occupation are very diverse and depend on the specifications of each role. 

However, one thing engineering subgroups do have in common is the stronger requirement for specialised rather than common skills, especially compared to other occupations. On average, 25% of engineering-related job postings require at least one engineering-specific specialised skill, and the demand for such skills is especially prominent in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering job postings. 

The fastest growth rates for specialised skills are seen in emerging fields such as chemical and biomedical engineering and robotics, while skills related to aerospace and radio frequency technology, which are typically more traditional, have declined in popularity. 

If you thought the range of skills requested for engineering positions was already quite broad - it’s likely they will become even more complex in the future. As the demand for specialised skills continues to grow, these will continue to branch out into role-specific skills. 

The graphic below shows the most in-demand engineering specialised skills subgroups and the number of job postings that request skills from each subgroup. This gives us an idea of the most in-demand engineering skills across the broadness of this occupation. For instance, skills related to Drafting and Engineering Design are the most sought-after, with over 230 thousand job postings requesting them. 

Top 10 engineering specialised skill sub-categories

Popular software skills in engineering 

Software skills are the most in-demand skill across the engineering board, with 45% of job postings requiring it, and they’re particularly requested for ICT occupations. Three important digital and software skills for engineers are:

  • Automation and robotics - these are emerging areas and ones likely to see substantial growth in the future. Automation and robotics skills are particularly relevant for electrical engineering roles, though automation is likely to affect every engineering subgroup to a certain level.

  • Programming languages - these are popular across various engineering subgroups, particularly in quality assurance and civil thematic groups.

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) - these are most requested  for the civil, mechanical and design career groups. 

Demand for software skills in engineering

The future of engineering in the UK

In order to understand where engineering is headed, it’s crucial to understand past trends and the current state of this occupation in the UK. Using our powerful and granular Lightcast data, as well as other official data sources in some instances, our team was able to gather highly detailed insights you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

Because engineering is such a broad occupational category, it becomes even more imperative to drill down to understand trends not just on a category-level but on subgroup-level too. Whether you want to analyse past and present recruitment activity, the growth or decline of specific engineering skills, or the regional distribution of engineering jobs across the UK, the full report has all of these and much more. 

EngineeringUK, a non-for-profit organisation that promotes the engineering and technology fields and their contributions, trusted the Lightcast team with this sizeable project. If you are looking to understand specific labour market trends in your field or region or want to solve your organisation’s talent challenges, our team can help. Reach out to us to discuss your needs. 

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