The Year of Engineering initiative is aimed at raising the profile of engineering among the nation’s youth, and is looking to plug the shortfall of engineers with ‘a million inspiring experiences of engineering for young people, parents and teachers’.
HM Government aims to change the lack of diversity and the shortfall in qualified engineering graduates and skilled technicians in UK engineering, by working with schools and families to offer young people a positive experience of engineering.
Britain has a strong engineering heritage, and is a world leader in certain sectors such as aerospace and automotive, delivering huge economic benefits to the country. To keep engineering going, the campaign will tackle the skills gap and widen the pool of young people from all backgrounds who join the profession.
Only 1/3 of parents know what people in engineering do, according to EngineeringUK, showing that the education needs to target both kids and parents in order to really make a change and to encourage a development of diverse conversations about children’s futures between them and their parents.
There are many different perceptions about what engineering is, so the Year of Engineering should be a useful platform to help challenge these. Professionals will have the opportunity to visit schools, encourage work placements/shadowing and attend events, and everyone can make a contribution even if simply helping children with STEM homework.
Many young people do have the skills and interests that are in demand and would lead them into an engineering career, and if they knew what engineering really involved, they could find a true career fit.
Peter Finegold, head of education policy at IMechE, said: “Engineering is simply how we use our intelligence and the materials at our disposal to make our lives better, safer, healthier and more enjoyable.”
He also added that unless students come from an engineering heritage background, they are unlikely to know about the career paths engineering has to offer.
Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “By bringing them face to face with engineering role models and achievements we can send a clear message that engineering careers are a chance for all young people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social background, to shape the future of this country and have a real impact on the lives of those around them.”
The engineering workforce is 94% white and 92% male, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, and this unarguable lack of diversity is one factor that stops girls, and BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) people from backgrounds entering into the profession.
The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) published a report about the supply and demand for engineers in the UK, in which it pointed out that BAME graduates receive lower salaries on average, and have fewer employment opportunities.
This might be something that the Year of Engineering can tackle, and if made fair could help level the playing field in terms of diversity.
Battling the wider social perceptions of engineering also must focus on the lack of women in engineering, and the Year of Engineering can tackle this by showing young people and the adults around them what modern engineering looks like.
Almost half of engineering companies say a shortage of skilled people is significantly reducing productivity and growth. According to EngineeringUK, there is a 20,000 annual shortfall of engineering graduates, and ideally the engineering profession would like 186,000 skilled recruits each year to 2024.
There are an impressive list of companies and organisations lending their support, and 130 companies had already signed up before the official launch in January, pledging to offer career talks, STEM events, site tours and much more.