The boss of one of the UK’s biggest aerospace companies has bemoaned the difficulty in finding enough suitably qualified engineers.
Marcus Bryson, chief executive of GKN Aerospace, which has 10,000 employees, including more than 1,000 design engineers, told PE that attracting the right calibre of technical staff continued to be a huge challenge for the business.
“It’s hard,” he said. “Companies like us and Airbus are very busy, particularly in the civil aerospace sectors, so it is difficult to get the right number and quality of engineers that we need.
“If we are talking about CAD jockeys – well that’s OK. But senior engineers – that’s a lot more difficult.”
He said that, ultimately, the lack of suitable engineers could damage the business.
Bryson, an aerospace veteran who joined GKN with the acquisition of the Westland Group in 1994, said he was concerned that too many graduate engineers were being lost to other professions. “How many actually stay in engineering? We need more data on this,” he said.
And he lamented the lack of status that engineers are afforded in the UK. “Engineers are held in too low esteem here. In Germany it’s so very different – they are viewed at the same level as doctors.”
Bryson admitted that government, industry and the institutions hadn’t done a good enough job of enticing young people into the profession.
“The engineering industry still doesn’t bang the drum hard enough,” he said. “We are trying to do our bit by taking on more apprentices and forging stronger links with universities.”
Bryson said that ultimately he wanted politicians to put more pressure on engineering firms to continue to design and build products in the UK. “There should be more pressure on companies to produce things here.
“The UK is a good place to invest in high-tech businesses. It just requires good levels of innovation. It might be a bit more difficult but it is worth it.
“There should be more government pressure in this area to ensure we retain capability,” he said.
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