By Andrew Rowlands
I was unsurprised to read that BP is struggling to find home-grown engineers to redevelop two oilfields in the North Sea (Sunday Telegraph, August 15). Sadly, the problem is not restricted to BP or the oil and gas industry. It is set to get worse because the output from British engineering-related degrees is static at best and the current workforce is aging rapidly.
I was also not surprised to learn that BP's Trevor Garlick linked the shortage to a 'brain drain'. We will need more new engineers than we think to simply tread water because engineering is the ultimate 'have skills will travel' profession. Research among the 300,000 engineers on our global database shows that three quarters of 21 to 30 year old British engineers want to work overseas, where their skills are increasingly in demand.
On the current trajectory, with a declining pool of recruits and overseas competition for talent affecting the supply side, we will surely be in crisis if the Government's plans to rebalance the economy towards industry comes to fruition. That is why the intervention by Sir John Parker, the new President at the Royal Academy of Engineering who called recently for a 50% increase in university qualified engineers per year, is to be welcomed.
If the Government fails in its goals and Sir John succeeds we should not let the thought of legions of unemployed engineers put us off from pursuing his ambitious targets. There will be plenty to keep our engineers occupied overseas even if their departure signifies a successful export industry we would rather not have.