Bosch’s Peter Fouquet on changing young people’s perceptions of engineering

Results from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2010-11 demonstrate that the number of engineering students has continued to rise year on year with 92,580 full-time undergraduates enrolled on engineering courses in 2010, a three per cent increase from 2009-10.

However, we shouldn’t be complacent ― there is still a job to be done in keeping graduate levels high and making sure these figures represent those going into related engineering jobs and not being diverted onto other career paths.

A recent survey conducted by Bosch revealed that the impact of engineering on the economy is undervalued and that there are major misconceptions about the industry. The research found that only 45 per cent of people (and only 23 per cent of young people) thought engineering was a key industry for the UK economy. This clearly shows that despite increased graduate numbers, more needs to be done to excite young people into pursuing engineering as a career choice.

This is not the only challenge. The government recently announced plans to downgrade the Engineering Diploma for 14 to 19 year olds from its current value of five GCSEs down to one. The worry is that devaluing this qualification will damage the reputation of the profession among young people, exactly what needs to be avoided if the current skill level is to be maintained. With the potential impact of increased tuition fees on graduate numbers, it is imperative that schemes such as apprenticeships and diplomas are offered to boost a workforce of engineers.

Make no mistake, there are multiple issues in society that require engineers to provide a solution. Reports suggest that the UK is not making the required inroads into the government’s Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT).

One of the key reasons that is put forward is that the reductions require at least 60,000 new skilled workers over 10 years.

The market for renewable energy represents a fantastic area of growth and opportunity, which requires a completely new skillset ― making it the ideal area for graduates to make their mark.

“If we are to be at the forefront of innovation, then engineering must be given a higher profile in society”

To reflect this, one of the two questions set for the 2012 Bosch Technology Horizon Award focuses on environmental technology and the way that it is changing modern society. This gives scope for the students to not only consider engineering’s contribution to this market, but to encourage thought around the improvements that could be made.

With this in mind, the aim of the award is partly to show the value of the underlying innovation through engineering, and not just the end-consumer product.

The award aims to change young people’s perception of a very broad subject by demonstrating application of engineering in the ‘real world’, and also to begin tackling wider issues such as the lack of women entering the industry.

The government has talked about rebalancing the economy, but this needs to be more than just talk.

The UK is still the eighth-largest manufacturing economy in the world, but few of our fellow countrymen acknowledge this or the impact that engineering is having on their lives.

If we are to be at the forefront of innovation, then engineering and its achievements must be given a higher profile in our society.

Further information about the Bosch Technology Horizons Award and the opportunity to enter can be found at http://www.bosch.co.uk/technologyhorizons/

Peter Fouquet
President
Robert Bosch Uk

Education
1983 Completed studies in business and administration in Mannheim, Germany; continued as an assistant professor for four years

Career
1987 Joined Bosch as a trainee; worked as a manager in purchasing, logistics, personnel, controlling and corporate planning
1998 President and chief executive officer of Bosch Sanayi ve Ticaret in Turkey
2000 Vice-president of the German Turkish Chamber of Industry and Commerce
2004 Executive vice-president for finance and administration at Robert Bosch Automotive Aftermarket Division
2009 President of Bosch UK