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96% of engineers believe they lack skills to tackle climate change

08 December 2023

Fewer than four percent of engineering companies worldwide feel equipped to address the challenges of climate change, according to a new survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

(Image: IET)
(Image: IET)

In a fresh review by the IET of engineering and technology skills in the battle against climate change, the survey tracked the opinions of engineering employers in Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the USA.

There are mixed opinions across all countries as to which skills are most needed to be resilient, from technical/engineering skills to softer skills like complex problem-solving and whole systems thinking. Resilience is especially low in Malaysia and China, where only one percent think they have all of the skills they need.

Although many organisations believe that their workforce is agile enough to adapt their skillsets to new technologies and ways of working, it’s specialist environmental skills that are lacking, as well as leadership skills – which was identified as one of the three most common barriers for organisations in meeting net zero in seven countries.

The survey also reveals over two-thirds of companies surveyed have a sustainability strategy, often in order to meet regulations for new markets. However, over 75 percent of respondents say they still need skills to deliver their strategy, including specialist sustainability skills and knowledge, and technical skills.

Over 70 percent of nearly all respondents say they are concerned about the impact of climate change on their organisation and nearly 90 percent of the organisations surveyed have seen reactions to climate change within their supply chains, with increased costs being the most common reaction.

Looking at the education pipeline, the majority of countries see their education systems as preparing young people well to work in their industry – up to 95 percent in China. UK respondents are less confident in their education system, with only 35 percent saying it prepares them well.

Engineering employers surveyed overwhelmingly see collaboration with academia as important for delivering high-quality engineering and technology candidates; when asked in which areas education could improve, every country except Egypt had some form of collaboration in their three most commonly selected answers. These included offering industry placement years, research projects in collaboration with industry and undertaking industry-targeted projects.

Dr Gopichand Katragadda, IET President, said: “This survey has shown us that there are significant levels of trepidation regarding the potential impact of climate change on engineering employers internationally. 

“The impact is already observable across supply chains, and goods and services becoming unavailable. This has led to greater concern over the skills that organisations are missing to be truly resilient to it.

“Despite the majority of businesses stating that they do have a sustainability strategy, this is tempered by a lack of confidence in the skills needed to deliver it."

To help meet national net zero targets, businesses are telling us that they want to see their governments focusing their policies on economic development and industrial strategy, as well as closer collaboration between academia and industry to ensure more high-quality engineering and technology candidates are ready for industry.

“We hope that by launching the results of the survey at COP28, we can bring the engineering skills conversation to the global stage and encourage participants to see the value of engineers in solving climate change.”

The research for the IET was carried out online by YouGov from 21 August to 10 September 2023 amongst 2,142 adults working in engineering employers in Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the USA.

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