As the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds passes the one million mark for the first time since 1992, a Nottingham business leader says that there are jobs to be had in the engineering sector, and that companies need to provide training and development opportunities for young people.
Over the past decade, the number of technical and management jobs has grown by a third in the UK, but young people are losing out on these jobs because they were seduced into taking media studies rather than engineering.
“Young people are the life blood of the property sector, but it’s up to us as business leaders to ensure that we provide maximum opportunities, which includes training, “ says Matthew Tucker, MD of Newark-based consulting engineers Morgan Tucker. “Developing the skills of workers in the construction industry is crucial for the sector – and essential for the health of the UK economy.”
International league tables show that the UK is 28th in the world for maths and 16th for science. Children in comprehensives are seven times as likely to take media studies A-level as their private school counterparts and half as likely to study science, leaving many young people in Britain without the skills to apply for skilled jobs.
Matthew continues: “I think as an industry, we need to play our part in ensuring that young people are still enthusiastic about more technical subjects. Children are regularly faced with glamorous images of celebrities and think this is the best career path, we need to show them this is not the case. Over the last year we have taken on a raft of young employees to boost our business, and ensure that the industry has the right skills for the future.”
“Over the years, Morgan Tucker has appointed a number of apprentices,” says Matthew. “They have since moved on to other companies and other job roles – but we feel that we have done our bit for them as individuals, and also our sector.”
A new recruit at the Newark HQ is Brian Harrison,23, who is doing a BEng Civil Engineering degree in South Wales. Brian says he had to search around for a company to take him as a placement student.
“I did find it difficult finding a place to experience the work I want to do,” he said. “I am doing a BEng degree but needed a placement company. Thankfully Morgan Tucker wanted to take me. I will be able to continue my degree and consider other options after that.
“Being here is brilliant. Every day I get hands on experience. I am gaining fantastic knowledge. The problem is that people are coming out of university with their engineering degrees, but not with the experience. Experience is the key when you go for interviews for jobs. Now I have that – and stand a good chance of getting a permanent position.”
Another member of the team is 24-year-old James Thompson who is doing an HND in Construction at Lincoln Technical College. Morgan Tucker is sponsoring James as he studies.
Matthew said: “James and Brian are very talented individuals. Like so many young people they face the difficulty of finding work once they leave university with their degrees. By giving them an opportunity at Morgan Tucker, we are also giving them a great opportunity to carve out a niche within the construction industry.
“My fear is that without the opportunity of gaining real, hands-on experience, talented individuals like James and Brian won’t get the jobs they really want – which is bad for them, and the industry. I worry that talented young people will drift into other sectors, because they cannot find they work they want.”
Teresa Morgan will be starting a BEng (Hons) Civil and Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Derby. She is also being sponsored through university by Morgan Tucker. Morgan Tucker has also recruited 18-year-old Laura Broughton as an apprentice in business administration.
Matthew says that talent can be spotted from an early age. The company is starting a campaign in local Notts schools – promoting engineering as a career, and talking about the construction industry as a whole.
He said: “The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) states that a number of engineering employers are experiencing difficulties in filling vacancies – because of a shortage of people with relevant skills and experience.
“Skill shortages are apparent at all levels, but especially at the higher end of the spectrum among professional engineers. I believe that we need to do ‘our bit’ to ensure we are training engineers for the future.”
The IES estimates that around 2.5 million people in the UK are in jobs that have an engineering component in some way.
Another way of encouraging young people into the sector, says Matthew, is through local ‘young planners’ events. Morgan Tucker is currently working on an upcoming young planners event in November – where people starting out in planning careers across the region, can get together, network – and discuss skills.
“It is vital that we as businesses, do our bit for the construction industry, “ says Matthew. “If we don’t take students on placement, and don’t continue to appoint apprentices, then I believe that young employees will lose their ambition – and that is bad for the industry, and bad for the economy.”
Not only should we encourage young people into good career paths, but we should nurture them, he added.
“I believe that society gives young people a really hard time,” he said. “Society tends to blame young people for so much. Read a national newspaper and there’s barely a page without a damning story involving a young person – from the recent riots to bad manners and anti social behaviour.
“My experience of young people is the exact opposite – as long as we take the time and effort to engage with them. During the course of my working life, I meet far more rude, bad mannered ‘older people’ than I do young people. Let’s give them a break and help them into long and meaningful professions.”