UK not ready or resilient against impact of climate change
A new international survey conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has revealed a concerning skills gap in the UK's engineering sector regarding climate change resilience.
According to the survey, 80% of UK engineering employers acknowledge a lack of necessary skills to effectively respond to climate change impacts.
Internal concerns are also evident, with nearly two-thirds of UK businesses feeling apprehensive about climate change's impact on their organisation. Among those with a sustainability strategy, 75% acknowledge the need for additional skills to implement these plans effectively.
While one-third of UK engineering employers have a strategy aimed at achieving net zero emissions, there is a notable deficiency in specialist sustainability skills, knowledge, holistic thinking, and agile mindsets.
In the context of global trends, UK employers are among eight nations leaning towards upskilling and reskilling. However, the UK is least likely to provide training in emerging technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and simulations.
A significant shortfall in the UK's education system is highlighted, with almost two-thirds of employers agreeing that it fails to adequately prepare graduates for industry. To address this, nearly half of UK employers advocate for more industry placement years, and over a third believe that more industry-focused projects will better equip graduates.
Stephanie Baxter, Head of Policy at the IET, commented: “The skills deficit indicates that we are not prepared and resilient enough to confront climate change challenges, both within the UK and globally. Achieving net zero necessitates a combination of industrial strategy, innovation funding, and upskilling support to make the UK workforce more internationally competitive. Skills in agility and holistic systems thinking are crucial for attaining net zero and adapting to climate change, and there should be more emphasis on fostering these in the workforce. It's imperative for businesses to prioritise training and upskilling that focuses on resilience, particularly around innovative thinking and problem-solving.
“Confidence in the UK’s education system is alarmingly low compared to international standards. Therefore, there's a need for increased collaboration between industry and universities. This includes targeting placements in areas with critical skill shortages, like nuclear technologies and digital twins.
“Employers are overlooking opportunities in digitalisation and net zero. The UK Government needs to facilitate upskilling in sustainable technology use, especially in fields like AI and digital twins, which are expected to become increasingly important.”
The IET's research was conducted online by YouGov from 21st August to 10th September 2023, surveying 2,142 adults employed in engineering firms across Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the USA.