Leading figures in industry and higher education have launched a campaign to encourage more talented young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering.

To mark the start of the Talent 2030 campaign the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) has published a report entitled Great Expectations.

It warns that the UK is failing to harness the whole of its talent base and is at risk of losing its competitive edge.  

According to a statement, the first wave of the campaign will focus on attracting more girls to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing when making their subject choices. Fewer than one in 10 engineering professionals are women and this is the lowest proportion across the EU. Talent 2030 warns that so few women in these industries means that the UK is at risking of letting half its talent pool go to waste.  

Aaron Porter, director of the Talent 2030 Campaign, said: ‘Our campaign will encourage young people to look at the compelling evidence, which shows that not only can jobs in manufacturing and engineering make a huge contribution to our society, but they also deliver a bigger earnings premium than many other careers.’

He hopes that sharing the findings of the campaign’s research will inspire more young people to seriously consider careers in manufacturing and engineering, and opt for subjects that will enable them to do this such as physics and maths.

Jane Wernick (FREng), a leading structural engineer who worked on the London Eye and a supporter of the campaign, said: ‘If our manufacturing and engineering industries are to thrive we need to attract the very best people.

‘It’s a great pity that we have so few women engineers. It means we are missing out on the talents of half the population. We need to make young people aware of how rewarding and varied a career in engineering can be,’ she added.

The taskforce behind the report, led by Richard Greenhalgh (former chairman of Unilever UK) and Nigel Thrift (vice-chancellor of Warwick University), commissioned a survey of undergraduate women in the penultimate year of their courses who all achieved A grades in GCSE maths, physics and chemistry.  

It reveals that less than a third of female undergraduates studying STEM subjects wish to pursue a career in engineering or manufacturing; that careers advice in school is lacking; and that the sector is seen as dominated by men and that it is also viewed as dull and lacking in excitement. It also found that two in five of young women said they could be persuaded to take up a career in manufacturing and engineering, but were now not doing the right degrees.

Proposals from the report include schools and colleges setting a target for the number of girls achieving A levels physics at grade B or above; that universities promote placements and internships in all manufacturing and engineering courses; and that business commits to supporting a major manufacturing and engineering mentoring scheme, particularly aimed at girls before they reach 14.