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More women needed in engineering to ease skills shortage, says REC

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has called on employers, educators and government to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering, or else risk a debilitating skills shortage crisis.


More than half (54%) of engineering recruiters believe that skills shortages have become more apparent in the last 12 months, and a further 28% say shortages are just as bad as they were a year ago, according to data released today by the REC.


This is due in part to a scarcity of women applying for jobs in the sector. According to, 120,991 women applied for UK engineering vacancies in 2015 compared to 1,043,507 men.


The REC asked engineering recruiters about potential solutions to this imbalance:


  • almost eight in ten (78%) said that better careers advice in schools is the key to attracting more women to the sector
  • more than six in ten (62%) said that government should do more to encourage girls to take maths and science at A-Level
  • 58% said that employers should offer more flexible working options to encourage more women to apply for vacancies.  

Almost half (48%) of engineering recruiters believe that women have the same opportunities as men within engineering, but that not enough effort is made to attract women to the sector. Three in ten (31%), however, said that employers’ attitudes are holding women back.


REC head of policy, Kate Shoesmith, said, “UK engineering will need to fill upwards of 2.56 million vacancies before 2022 – failure to meet this target would pose major risks to projects such as HS2 or the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. Businesses are already experiencing a shortage of candidates with engineering skills.


“Employers, educators and government all have a responsibility to tackle the root causes of the gender imbalance in this sector because the status quo is unsustainable.”

Lynn Cahillane, communications manager at, commented, "Engineering is seeing huge levels of growth and we’re seeing a constant flow of jobs advertised on, from marine engineering to micro-electronics. However, whilst applications to the sector are up by more than a third annually, the gender imbalance continues to worsen. In 2015, men outnumbered women 10:1 in engineering roles compared to 9:1 in 2014.

“To encourage more women to consider a career in engineering, schools and universities have an important role to play. The extensive number of jobs on offer as well as the lucrative pay packages on offer, should be portrayed to the next generation of workers from an early age. This, paired with flexible working hours and on-site childcare facilities, should help improve the appeal of the industry to women."


The REC’s March Report on Jobs shows that engineering was the second most in-demand category for permanent staff during February. 



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