Let’s tackle the engineering shortfall head-on

Guest blog

With the exception of Bloodhound, industry’s missing a trick when it comes to using high-profile projects to inspire future engineers

We keep banging on about the projected shortfall of engineers in the future, and the need to attract young people into our profession. Lord knows its formed the basis for these articles a few times.

However as an engineer metaphorically “out in the field” – or possibly literally for all you know – it does equally remain a matter of concern.

Instead of bemoaning the fact perhaps we could petition the institutes and suggest ways to tackle the problem?

For myself I think Bloodhound remains a fine example of actively engaging with the public in general and children in particular, highlighting the exciting doors that can be opened within the world of engineering. I would like to see the mainstream media pick up on it even more but the assertive use of multimedia platforms coupled to practical hands on activities at least gives an initial template of how such things can be undertaken.

Airfix
Andy Green sits in position amid the various components of Bloodhound SSC, now being assembled

What then of other whizz-bang projects that don’t currently do this (hopefully that won’t prove to be an unfortunate choice of phrase)?

I have yet to see any evidence regarding actively reaching out to the public with the new America’s Cup contender currently being built in Portsmouth. The main team are undoubtedly flat out getting the boat built and race ready but surely there is scope for employing someone to harvest the undoubted support and enthusiasm? This being to the greater good of both the project specifically and engineering as whole. An international competition that uses bespoke carbon fibre hulled boats skimming feet above the water at insane speeds – what’s not to like?

Then there’s Skylon. When was the last time you saw something about this phenomenal aircraft outside of industry publications? Yes its been a long haul to get this far but we know that major strides forward have been made, we also know what it has the potential to achieve. This is truly a revolutionary vehicle – loud, dramatic and beautiful yet how many 14 year olds even know about it?

 Perhaps the solution actually lies in a small dedicated team (possibly co-funded by all the institutes) to select projects to use and, in return, helping them through the exposure gained? This team would have a simple remit:

1)   Find out what’s in development in Britain (possibly through inviting applications).

2)   Select key projects based on probability of success, novelty and interest.

3)   Promote the Hell out of them in the media, education establishments and youth organisations as well as at grass roots events.

I say let’s take a lead in influencing the policies of those who head up our profession and start bombarding them with ideas. After all we achieve nothing by merely sitting and wringing our hands.