There aren't enough engineers, so what's to be done?

1 min read

EngineeringUK's latest report – Engineering UK 2014 – paints a similar picture to its previous publications. There are, it concludes, not enough engineers of all types and not enough people wanting to be engineers. This is, the organisation says, jeopardising the UK's economic future. Another year, another similar report, more calls for action.

So how do we get children to 'sign up' for a career in engineering? Amongst EngineeringUK's latest suggestions are the provision of careers inspiration for all 11 to 14 year olds and support for teachers and careers advisors. 'Careers inspiration' is an interesting term. EngineeringUK says it 'should include opportunities to meet technical leaders from across a range of scientific, technological, engineering and business sectors and experience of the workplace'. All very laudable, but how would such an ambition be achieved within today's educational framework? The curriculum is already a very crowded place and the current leadership at the Department of Education appears to have more interest in promoting things other than STEM skills and engineering careers. Inevitably, such 'inspiration' will have to take place outside of regular school hours. Previous suggestions have included engineering clubs and STEM Ambassadors, but you would have to make a pretty convincing case to get 11 to 14 year olds to attend such clubs. The problem is compounded when the focus is switched to getting young girls interested in engineering. Or is there another way? Already, some companies have decided to get on with it themselves and not wait for some 'top down solution' to be imposed. An example is Premier EDA Solutions – a good friend of New Electronics – which works with a couple of local schools to raise the profile of the electronics industry. School students will be attracted towards career in engineering if they believe jobs are available, prospects are good, the working conditions acceptable and the financial rewards are tangible. But, before that, they have to be interested in engineering. Asking schools to help change perceptions is one thing, but it's only part of the solution. The engineering sector itself needs a radical makeover.