Resolve to get involved

The Paul Jackson Column

EngineeringUK chief executive Paul Jackson rounds up the targets for his organisation in 2013, and calls on engineers across the country to get involved

At Christmas most of us take some time to reflect on the year’s ups and downs and make resolutions for the New Year. And the same can be said for EngineeringUK. 2012 was a big year for us. 56,000 people visited The Big Bang Fair and around 20,000 more took part in a Big Bang Near Me event. Our Tomorrow’s Engineers schools programme reached tens of thousands of young people this year. Neither of these important programmes would be as influential as they are without the support of the wider engineering community, from leading UK business and industry through to Government and professional organisations.

I’ve attended a number of interesting meetings this year; most recently the Education Select Committee in November and in December we launched our annual report, Engineering UK: the state of UK engineering 2013, ata roundtable hosted by Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Michael Fallon MP at No 11 Downing Street. I was pleased to see both Education Select Committee Chairman Graham Stuart MP and Michael Fallon MP furiously writing down what we, the engineering community, have to say.

There’s one over-riding resolution to take from all of this that will help all others fall into place: collaboration.  Together we’ve certainly set the groundwork to achieve some ambitious resolutions in 2013. And it’s just as well because the findings of the 2013 report show that we have challenges ahead of us.

We need to double the number of annual recruits into engineering up to 2020 to meet demand in the UK. Engineering companies are projected to have 2.74 million job openings from 2010 – 2020, 1.86 million of which will need engineering skills. Of these, approximately 87,000 per year will require people with at least level 4 (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualifications. Currently the UK produces only 46,000 people qualified at this level.There will also be demand for around 69,000 people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year. Yet only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level.

“Engineering companies are projected to have 2.74 million job openings from 2010 – 2020, 1.86 million of which will need engineering skills

At the launch event, leading UK business and industry, professional bodies, academia and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed their support and commitment to meeting these challenges to the sector head-on. To do that we must get to the root of the problem. This will mean doubling the numbers of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple science, growing the numbers of students studying physics A-level and providing robust and consistent careers information for young people that promotes the diversity of engineering careers available and the variety of routes to those careers.

Unlike the January gym memberships, these are resolutions which must be embraced for the long-term by the whole engineering community if we are to affect real change. 

At EngineeringUK we are looking forward to hitting the ground running come January 2013. Make sure to make a place in your diary for the biggest Big Bang Fair yet at ExCeL London on 14 – 17 March. And make it your resolution to get in touch with us; work with us to help realise our resolutions for UK engineering in the year ahead. We need to get our act together, with the emphasis on ‘together’!

Five big resolutions for the engineering community:

• Double the number of engineering graduates to meet the demand for future engineering graduates, physics teachers and engineering lecturers

• Double of the numbers of young people studying GCSE physics as part of triple sciences and grow the numbers of students studying physics A level to match those studying maths

• Increase in the numbers of pre-19-year-olds students studying vocational level 3 qualifications in engineering and manufacturing technology, construction planning and the built environment and information and communications technologies

• Ensure provision of (face-to-face) robust and consistent careers information advice and guidance for all 11- to 14-year-olds that promotes the diversity of engineering careers available and the variety of routes to those careers, including opportunities to experience the workplace

• Support teachers and careers advisors in delivering careers information to give them an understanding of the range of engineering career paths available, including vocational and technician, and the opportunity to experience a 21st century engineering workplace for themselves.

Paul Jackson is chief executive of EngineeringUK