Viewpoint: good and bad news

The increase in the number of UK engineering graduates is a success story but we still require many more to take this career path

The good news is that the number of engineering graduates in the UK has been climbing in recent years. The bad news is that we still need many, many more.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency demonstrate that, after years of falling numbers, engineering graduates are steadily increasing. From a low point of 21,735 graduates in 2005-06 we have reached 30,530 in 2009-10. That equates to a 40 per cent increase in the space of just five years.

This turnaround is a tremendous success story, but we must not become complacent. We need more young people to opt for a career in engineering if we are to tackle many of the major issues that we face as a society, most notably the issue of climate change.

I recently listened to a speech by the DECC’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof David MacKay, who outlined the government’s vision of how we are to get to the low-carbon future that our climate-change commitments demand by 2050.

“The problem we have is not a lack of vision but a lack of talented engineers to help with that vision”

Prof MacKay outlined a detailed roadmap of how we will use nuclear, solar, wind and tidal power among other technologies, to replace our dependency upon fossil fuels. As he talked, it became clear to me that the problem we have is not a lack of vision, but a lack of talented engineers to help implement that vision.

Engineering is the key, not only to finding innovative ways to generate electricity to heat our homes and power our cars, but it will also help us to bridge the gap between our present dependence upon fossil fuels and a low-carbon future.

Let me give you an example. It is unlikely that electric cars will have a significant market share for some years, so it is likely that the internal combustion engine will have a large role to play in emissions reduction. Bosch engineers are, therefore, working to reduce the fuel consumption of gasoline and diesel engines by up to one-third through high-pressure injection, advanced turbo-charging and downsizing.

Downsizing helps reduce the capacity of an engine, while still maintaining excellent performance, drivability and reduced emissions. Assuming downsizing concepts and other technologies are consistently applied, a mid-class vehicle will consume 29 per cent less fuel by 2015 than it does today.

Engineering will also be the key to bringing down the unit cost of many products. For many consumers, the unit cost of solar panels or a ground-source heat pump to heat their home is a significant barrier to entry. Innovation driven by engineering will be a vital component in lowering these costs and fuelling the uptake of renewable technologies.

But where are we to find these engineers? In my view, we must deal with this problem at source. In the UK, the title of engineer does not have the social status afforded to it in other countries.

The truth is very different. A modern engineering graduate can work at the cutting edge of technology helping governments, businesses and individuals become leaner, faster and better.

For this reason, Bosch in the UK has once again launched its Technology Horizons Award for 2011 – an essay-writing competition aimed at those still in school and also those who are making their degree choices. Our ultimate aim is not to identify a promising individual or the outstanding young engineer of his or her generation. Our aim is simply to encourage young people to pause for a moment and consider the possibility of a career in engineering.

peter.jpg

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 GmbH Automotive Aftermarket Division
2009 President of Bosch UK

Further information about the Bosch Technology Horizons Award 2011 can be found by going to www.bosch.co.uk/