Only 66% of HR directors believe engineers possess the necessary skills and attributes to make a valuable contribution on a board of management, according to a new study being debated by an organisation set up to develop engineers as leaders in UK industry.

The research was carried out by Sainsbury’s Management Fellows (SMF), a not-for-profit organization that enables UK engineers to acquire the knowledge and skills to make the transition from a technical to a senior management role.

SMF’s survey showed that the career backgrounds most valued in the boardroom are accountancy, sales, marketing, HR and legal, with professional engineering coming way down the scale. Yet when asked if professional engineers with MBAs are suitably qualified for board positions, 80% of the HR directors agreed that they are.

SMF President, David Falzani, comments: “Engineers, by their very nature, have a wide range of skills that offer so much more than just technical knowledge including problem-solving and the ability to oversee complex project management tasks. Engineers who undertake MBAs through our scheme assist businesses to minimise risk and make them more profitable. The findings from our report show there is a still a long way to go in convincing UK industry that engineers have what it takes to make it to the board and many excellent candidates are being overlooked simply because they are not from a legal or financial background.”

SMF’s view on the importance of a varied skill set on a board including engineers is backed up by the Institute of Directors (IoD), which believes a strong board extends beyond gender diversity, and is one that welcomes people from all walks of life.

With over 250,000 engineers employed in the UK , it is important that organizations utilise their skills and knowledge and that HR managers are aware of the benefits of including engineers in decision making. To help, SMF has published the findings of the survey in a booklet for HR professionals which encourages them to consider the role of professional engineers on the board.

The survey also uncovered some promising statistics for the future; 86% of those asked were open minded about recruiting directors with non-financial or legal backgrounds and where engineers have MBA qualifications and business experience, 80% of HR directors felt reassured that engineers had the skills worthy of a place in the boardroom.

David Falzani comments: “Historically, engineers have not been seen as a natural choice to be members of boards of blue chip organisations. But this research shows recruiters are discovering that once they gain legal, financial, and marketing training, they have a vital contribution to make.”