The engineering sector involves a wide selection of jobs and responsibilities, and there are engineers in almost every industry. Engineering is further subdivided into chemical, electrical and mechanical fields, but all of them have one thing in common: they involve the use of technique and skill to achieve a real-world impact. Below, you’ll learn more about the state of engineering, and the direction in which it is headed.
Some engineering areas could be negatively impacted because of environmental problems such as crop and rainforest plant shortages and higher raw material costs. All sectors are more worried about the environment than ever before, and need to devise ways to prevent pollution and save energy—such as alternative fuels and eco-friendly packaging. Green technology is worth trillions globally, and the UK is moving to the forefront in that sector.
Electricity generated through nuclear means will continue to play a large role in engineering around the world. As more nuclear power plants are built, more jobs are created, and local economies are stimulated. Since the Fukushima disaster, the government of the UK has come up with eight proposed nuclear power plant sites.
Solar power is expected to become a high-use energy source as costs decrease and technology improves. However, solar energy jobs are just a small portion of hiring for chemical engineers; bioengineering is a far safer bet, as the field grows because of an increased interest in the processing of biomass into materials currently made from petroleum byproducts.
It’s well-documented that the US has turned toward Asia as a source of cheap products and labor, and R&D is being exported there as well. Engineers taught in America are returning to countries like China and India, where they wouldn’t have thought to do so five years ago. Many companies in America (especially pharmaceuticals) are moving their engineering departments to Asian countries, creating more career opportunities for US-trained engineers.
As engineers retire, they need to be replaced; shortages are being felt especially hard in the defense and aerospace industries, where almost 60% of the workforce will retire over the next two decades. Other shorthanded sectors are civil engineering, energy and utilities.
Manufacturing and Other Sectors
The United Kingdom is the seventh largest manufacturer in the world, but its market share is expected to see a period of steady decline as other economies (China, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, among others) become more dominant. However, the UK will continue to excel in certain areas—especially in advanced materials (more opportunities for chemical and material engineers), robotic engineering, and biometrics (things like retinal scanners and fingerprint readers). As the population grows wealthier and older, demand for new pharmaceuticals is expected to rise commensurate with healthcare spending.
Engineers are problem-solvers, and they face new challenges every day. Some engineering fields are declining, while others are growing; it’s a fluid and rapidly-changing industry. Depending on which field you’re entering, you should expect job growth to be steady for the next few years.
Solar panels photo by Martin Jakobsen. License: CC BY 2.0.