Age profile of healthcare engineers threatens future of industry

Improvements to recruitment needed as industry suffers a shortfall of new blood

The future of healthcare estates and facilities management could be under threat as the industry struggles from a shortage of new blood.

Delegates at The Institute of Healthcare Engineering & Estate Management’s Healthcare Estates 2012 conference in Manchester last week heard concerns that the average age of estates professionals was increasing and there were not enough new graduates coming through the system.

My concern is that the age profile of those wanting to be project engineers is very high and in the NHS we are not attracting people as apprentices and then working with them to enhance their skills

Richard Knight, an authorised engineer at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The age profile of chartered engineers is really very bad. We need to work the numbers up.”

An audience member working in estates and facilities management in the North of England, agreed. He said: “My concern is that the age profile of those wanting to be project engineers is very high and in the NHS we are not attracting people as apprentices and then working with them to enhance their skills.”

And he claimed increases in university fees would only exacerbate the problem further in the future.

“We need to develop an education framework through which people can progress through the NHS to get the necessary skills in healthcare engineering,” he said.

We need to develop an education framework through which people can progress through the NHS to get the necessary skills in healthcare engineering

The issue is something IHEEM leaders say they will be looking into over the coming months. President, Paul Kingsmore, said: “It is not just about age profile, it is also about diversity. We do not have enough women coming into the sector and we do not actively encourage them to join.

“IHEEM can take a role in this and we will work with education organisations.”

He added that the institute was also looking to encourage organisers of university courses to consider more specialist teaching for healthcare engineers.

Knight welcomed this move. He said: "I see hospital designs that are quite appalling. Engineers do not have formal training in this sector and the industry sometimes is just not up to the job.

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