Can the engineering sector move on to 3 February?

1 min read

In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s weatherman relived the day almost ad infinitum as he was forced to consider his life choices. And it seems like the engineering industry is stuck in a Groundhog Day of its own; every year about this time, EngineeringUK publishes a report which says that not enough people are studying STEM subjects, the supply of graduates is falling short of requirements and that attempts to attract women into engineering aren’t working.

But it’s not all bad news; this year’s report shows some positive signs – engineering and technology degrees are up 9%; England has seen the highest number of engineering related apprenticeship starts for a decade; and more 11 to 16 year olds say they would consider a career in engineering.

However, in their introduction to this year’s report, Professor Dame Ann Dowling, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Malcolm Brinded, chair of Engineering UK, say there continues to be real concerns and call for efforts to be redoubled to improve STEM education, to attract young people into engineering, and to retain, motivate and improve the skills of those already in the industry.

According to the report, engineering contributes 26% of the UK’s GDP and, in terms of Gross Value Added, contributes more than the retail, wholesale, financial and insurance sectors combined. And yet engineering remains the poor relation.

So what’s to be done? Dame Ann and Brinded make five recommendations: encourage more pupils to study STEM subjects; increase diversity in engineering; draw on available talent; enhance the international dimension; and develop an industrial strategy.

With all due respect, it’s more of the same. These recommendations – with the exception of industrial strategy – have been made before. Perhaps previous recommendations are working; perhaps the boost in apprenticeships is down to more focus on promotion of engineering, rather than students deciding they don’t want to take on more than £30,000 of debt before they earn a penny from their degree.

Dame Ann and Brinded hope their recommendations ‘resonate with those who dip into the report’ and that they ‘influence agendas’.

Bill Murray’s weatherman in Groundhog Day finally changes his ways and his life moves on to 3 February. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could escape this seemingly endless cycle?