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Sector Information

The Sector Skills Council for Science, Mathematics, engineering and Manufacturing Technologies sectors is SEMTA. SEMTA covers the following:

  • Motor Vehicle Manufacture
  • Aircraft and Spacecraft (including Satellites)
  • Ship and Boat building and repair.
  • Other Transport Equipment (including Railway locomotives)
  • Electronic Equipment (including consumer electronics and semiconductors)
  • Electrical Equipment
  • Basic Metals (including wholesale ores, waste and scrap)
  • Metal Products
  • Mechanical Equipment
  • Tyres (including retreading and rebuilding)

In terms of Science, SEMTA has responsibility for scientific occupations that include:

  • research and development in pharmaceutical manufacturing companies
  • the application of bioscience for the processing and production of materials

SEMTA are also responsible for mathematical based occupations across all of the sectors listed above.


The engineering sector

The engineering manufacturing industry across the UK is very broad, covering areas such as the manufacture of aircraft, ships and leisure boats, satellites, cars and other vehicles, electronics and electrical products, mechanical components (including engines and bearings), all the metal manufactured and precision machined items that hold these products together as well as companies that are involved in the processing and casting of metals. UK engineering exports are valued at around £137 billion (37% of total UK exports of goods and services).

The majority of engineering establishments in Great Britain are very small, employing fewer than 50 people (91%), and 50% of establishments employ 5 or less people. Relatively high proportions of large organisations are found within the Aerospace (6% have 500 or more employees) and Motor Vehicles (3%) industries.

Source: Semta LMI report March 2010 and BMG Research Report 2007


Employment in engineering

Total employment in the engineering sector is around 1.4 million. This is 20% lower than 5 years previously which reflects the continuing decline in UK manufacturing employment. It is estimated that more than one third of a million workers have been lost from this sector since 1999. Total employment is expected to decline further over the next 10 years, but at a slower rate than that of the last 5 years. 150,000 jobs are expected to be lost over the next 10 years, half of which will be amongst the Skilled trades occupations.

While the net requirement for people will be lower, when you take retirements into account there is still substantial requirement need. This is true for all occupational groups with the exception of Elementary occupations (including Skilled trades occupations, and Machine and transport operatives). A net loss in elementary occupations is expected over the next 10 years which just outweighs the replacement demand requirement.

90% of the workforce is full-time. Part-time employment and self-employment are both extremely uncommon in the sector.

Employment in this sector is predominantly male (80%) with less than 1-in-5 female workers.

Skilled trades occupations, Machine and transport operatives, together with Elementary occupations account for 56% of employment. This is almost double their average share in the UK economy as a whole.

The sector’s priorities for action include:

  • attracting more people into the industry
  • developing appropriate qualifications and learning programmes
  • up-skilling the current workforce

Source: Working Futures 2006 and SEMTA 2006


The sciences

The science industries comprises pharmaceuticals, manufacture of medical and surgical equipment plus science and engineering research and development, so covers a range of disciplines. This research and development work takes place in a variety of establishments, such as university departments, research based employers or other scientific based employers.

There are an estimated 191,000 people employed in the sciences in Great Britain, which includes those involved in research and development with science qualifications, as well as those with other qualifications and job roles that are not science related but are essential to the business. There are an estimated 6,490 companies.

Key statistics:

  • The South East and East of England have the largest science industry employment in the UK.
  • 91% of the pharmaceuticals workforce and 88% of the medical devices workforce is full-time.
  • Around 6% of those in science occupations are self-employed.
  • The workforce has a young age profile.
  • Bioscience graduates need to have strengths in chemistry, mathematics and physics, some course are not equipping them with the skills to cope with the cross-disciplinary nature of modern bioscience or the practical aspects of laboratory work.
  • Currently, there are insufficient numbers pursuing technical courses, making it difficult for industry to recruit good quality technicians.
  • Bioscience-related companies tend to be located in clusters, the most significant ones around the ‘golden triangle‘, of Cambridge, Oxford and London, in Scotland they are centred around the Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow triangle; and in the North West of England, where there is a long established pharmaceutical industry. In Wales and Northern Ireland clusters of companies are centred around the main universities.

Source: Semta LMI March 2010

Despite employers’ experiencing skill shortages and gaps, recruitment continues to be, generally, at graduate level. A depth of scientific knowledge and skills, in Chemistry, Biological science and Mathematics is important for those wishing to enter the industry. There is also a need for interdisciplinary awareness, practical skills, experience in the industry, the ability to work to regulatory standards and good communication skills. For specific scientific areas, the greatest skills shortages are in:

  • Clinical/pharmacology/translational medicine
  • Bioscience
  • Analytical and physical chemistry
  • Process and chemical engineering
  • In vivo sciences (clinical trials and animal testing)
  • Bioinformatics

The following general scientific skills are identified as being areas where there are shortages: biological and medical sciences; chemical sciences; process engineering; plus mathematics and statistics. The main scientific skills gaps are in:

  • bioscience and molecular biology
  • analytical and physical chemistry
  • biochemistry
  • biotechnology/biopharmaceuticals
  • geomics/proteomics/metabolomics
  • synthetic organic chemistry/medicinal chemistry
  • mathematics or statistics

The three most common reasons for hard-to-fill vacancies in the UK science companies surveyed are: lack of applicants with required work experience; lack of breadth of skills; and lack of applicants with required qualifications and skills.

Future drivers of change

  • The businesses are competitive and fast moving and there is pressure to protect new ideas and inventions as well as ensuring that products (such as medicines and medical devices) are safely tested and developed before being introduced for public use.
  • The equipment and software that is being developed for the industry and the skills that will be needed to analyse the millions of samples and tests for drug development, will require people with strong mathematical understanding. The area of bioinformatics has already been identified as an area where it is difficult to recruit people with the required experience and skills.
  • Future science professionals will need to have even greater strengths in both IT and mathematical analysis, alongside their knowledge of biology and chemistry. These are already being identified as areas that some new graduates are lacking.
  • Diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes) are under constant review, as breakthroughs in understanding are made and greater knowledge of the causes of and treatment for these diseases are made. This will require professional scientists and research managers who can understand these breakthroughs and develop more effective medicines and treatments based on these findings.
  • Professional scientists, engineers and those with an understanding of the needs of the medical industry are likely to be needed in future to further improve and develop both the diagnostic and scanning equipment, as well as improve the materials and devices used in other medical applications.
  • With scientific developments proceeding rapidly, employers will be looking for some highly specialist skills, which require specialist training and courses. These areas may include bio-processing and bio-manufacturing as the industry moves to the biological delivery of drugs and medicines.
  • There is a need for multidisciplinary approaches covering genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, IT, mathematics and statistics.

Source: Semta LMI report March 2010