IET research findings: Engineering companies across the world are reporting lack of skills to be resilient to climate change

Research findings

At a launch event hosted in Dubai to coincide with COP28 and supported by the University’s Middle East Centre, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has revealed the findings of its latest skills survey. The findings presentation was followed by a panel discussion with experts including Dr Alex McTaggart, the University of Manchester's academic lead for transnational education and senior lecturer in educational leadership at the Manchester Institute of Education.

According to the new international survey by the IET, fewer than 4% of engineering companies across eight countries think their organisations have all of the skills to be resilient to the impacts of climate change. 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 1% 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 the 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% of respondents say they still need skills to deliver their strategy, including specialist sustainability skills and knowledge, and technical skills.

Over 70% of nearly all respondents say they are concerned about the impact of climate change on their organisation and nearly 90% 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% in China. UK respondents are less confident in their education system, with only 35% 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 that 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 lack of confidence in 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.”

A New Year message from Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor, the University of Manchester.

Here we are at the start of a new year: 2024. A very special moment for us at The University of Manchester, as we mark our bicentenary. A year to celebrate 200 years of learning, innovation and research. 200 years of our incredible people and community. 200 years of global influence.

A time to reflect on the past. A time to recognise our key discoveries, pioneering ideas and world firsts. And a time to look forward to what our third century could bring, with our commitment to social responsibility underpinning all that we do.

This special year is packed with opportunities and events for everyone – staff, students, alumni, residents and our wider, global community. After all, it’s all of you who make us what we are, and we want everyone to feel involved.

Here is a glimpse of what you can look forward to:

  • We begin the year with our Light Up event on 17 January, when a pathway of light will illuminate buildings on campus and beyond in our signature colour: purple. The Manchester Museum will be open late, showcasing an evening of poetry, music, hands-on experiences and after-hours tours.
  • In February we will launch our bicentenary lecture podcast series, with special guests discussing subjects to which we as a University are committed, and through which we continue making a difference, such as health, the environment, community and, of course, education.
  • In the summer we will host our flagship event – Universally Manchester Festival, a special festival of ideas, performance and community running from 6 to 9 June. Offering a dynamic, inclusive and engaging programme with a focus on creating a greener, fairer and healthier world. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our history and explore what makes us ‘Manchester’ today.
  • In the autumn we are delighted to be hosting the prestigious THE World Academic Summit. From 7 to 9 October we will be welcoming 500 global leaders in higher education to our wonderful campus and city.

I hope that you find a way to be involved with our bicentenary celebrations across the year. Whether that's delivering an activity on campus, running the special bicentenary Purple Wave, listening to a podcast or watching events online, everyone who takes part in our bicentenary is part of the same universal team: Team 200.

For two centuries, we have collaborated, encouraged and inspired each other to make an impact on an international stage. And we carry on doing it as we enter our third century.

With my warmest regards for the year ahead,