The growth of technology and robotics in engineering sectors is forcing firms to poach people from the IT industry as competition for skilled workers heats up, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
The organisation's Ones to Watch report identified five sectors - food, space, additive manufacturing, cyber security and robotics - that require an influx of engineering and IT skills if they are to flourish in the coming years.
However, the report noted that a lack of available skills poses a risk to these fast growing sectors which demand technology and engineering skills.
Gordon Attenborough, head of the design and production sector at the IET, explained to V3 that the need for more digital and IT skills will see the engineering industry competing with its technology counterparts in attracting the right people.
"When you are in an environment where you have an overall shortage of skills, the competition between specific industries and specific sectors for those skills is only going to exacerbate the problem," he said.
Attenborough added that the natures of engineering and technology have changed over the past 20 years and require a different set of skills.
This has led to a shortage of skills in areas such as robotics, which require software and programming skills along with engineering ability.
Making use of big data and informatics is one example of technology crossing over with the engineering industry and requiring new skills as a result.
Attenborough echoed the calls of the IET to focus on teaching digital skills to engineers, rather than competing with other industries and sectors over a finite number of individuals.
"More people will hopefully be moving into programming, software engineering and more technological disciplines, but we have a shortfall now. And we're talking about the opportunity [for skills] now, not the next 10 or 20 years," he explained.
"So that's why upskilling the existing workforce is going to be such a significant area."
Attenborough also said that more diversity is required in the engineering industry, including attracting more women.
"One of the things that saddens me is that there still seems to be a pervasive misrepresentation of an engineering career. And perhaps that has a greater impact on young women who are considering their career choices than on young men," he said.
This can be solved if the engineering and technology industries, along with related organisations and the government, achieve cohesion between the various initiatives being touted to address the skills gap, the IET argued.
Attenborough explained that there needs to be more awareness of the diversity and opportunity that engineering and technology offers both genders.
Part of this will require alerting parents and teachers to the opportunities in the industries if young people are to be encouraged to develop related skills.
"We need to get an accurate representation of the opportunities that engineering and technology offer as a career. And if we can start to do that, I believe more people will want to be involved in them as careers," he said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband also posted a Facebook message highlighting Labour's concerns about the lack of women in technology and Labour's ambitions to fill the UK's IT skills gap.
The digital skills gap is a pressing concern for many industries, but it is increasingly becoming a political issue too. The Labour Party has promised an upheaval in technology use and skills if it wins the General Election in 2015.
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