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Digital Infrastructure sector: responses to the skill shortage of engineers

Neil Watt | 26 Jan 2015 | Comments

Digital infrastructure is pivotal to the growth of the UK and our adaption to new ways of working and living. With the government’s aim of 95% of the UK having access to superfast broadband by 2017 supported by an £11 billion investment in communications, skills are vitally important in making sure these targets are met and delivered.

As highlighted in the report, the sector is facing challenges in finding the right skills and experience. Too few graduates are skilled in the areas of fibre optics or mobile phone infrastructure. Academia appears to push students towards further research. As a result individuals may not have an understanding of the practical elements of digital or wireless infrastructure, meaning they are not adequately prepared for industry. Businesses and academia need to work more effectively together on identifying what skills individuals need to leave the education system with, to properly equip them for the realities of the working environment.

In the meantime, one of the biggest consequences highlighted for the sector, is the risks associated with having to rely on overseas resources. Without either enough engineers or those with the right skills engineers across the supply chain to deploy on these large scale projects, we will inevitably need to look outside the UK. However, recruiting overseas can pose its own challenges. With some aspects of the delivery posing national security issues.

The UK is currently seen as the centre of engineering excellence around the globe. However, the wider issue for UK plc is if we’re not able to showcase what we’ve achieved at home. It will have an impact on our ability to sell our expertise around the world and to compete internationally which is something we need to protect, making it vital we tackle these challenges.

I can still remember after completing my very first project at Atkins 15 years ago, I felt like I’d made a real difference to the way people communicate and connect to each other. It is this experience, opportunity and example of what it is like to work in such a diverse and interesting profession that we need to be better at demonstrating to the engineers of tomorrow.

A full copy of the skills report is available to view/download here.