If ever there was a strong case for becoming a PAYE umbrella contractor, the country’s engineering graduates represent it. This is one of the obvious conclusions to draw from a disturbing new study from Birmingham University, which found that almost a quarter of new engineering and science graduates take up jobs unrelated to their degree.

The statistic seems astonishing in the light of repeated complaints from industry leaders and employers about a shortage of suitably qualified scientists and engineers in the UK.

The study tracked the number of engineering students finding related jobs upon graduation between 1986 and 2009, as well as those who found work in other unrelated professions or in non-graduate roles.

Fewer than half of those graduating with engineering degrees (46%) found work directly related to their qualification in 2009, with 20% finding work in other non-engineering professional occupations and a surprising 24% taking up work in non-graduate jobs.

The research suggests that the numbers of scientists and engineers working in non-relevant sectors is likely to be directly connected with the dearth of available jobs. Employers remain wary about hiring new permanent staff.

The report’s lead author, Professor Emma Smith, said “It is astonishing, in the light of claims of science graduate shortages, that so few new graduates go into related employment. The figures suggest it is not easy or automatic for qualified engineers to get related employment in the UK, despite the purported shortages.”

Maybe it is time for graduates who wish to work in the field the are qualified in to consider contracting through umbrella companies. Employers may hesitate over permanent staff, but still need skilled recruits to undertake specific projects.

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