Scheme targets students from disadvantaged backgrounds

A scheme to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds into engineering has been launched to businesses at BETT, the education and technology trade fair taking place in London this week.

The Elite Engineering Programme has been launched in conjunction with LEGO Education UK & Ireland, and programme manager Kate Bellingham in partnership with the principal funder, the Helsington Foundation, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The Elite Engineering Programme aims to boost the number of talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider pursuing careers in engineering.

Funded by the private sector, the scheme aims to reach out to young people in state schools from the age of 10 by establishing the profession as a credible career path.

The programme has been created in response to research published last year by the Royal Academy of Engineering, entitled ‘Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy’’, which found that the UK needs to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and maths graduates by around 50 per cent per year.

Matthew Harrison, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: ‘Engineering enterprise is vital for economic and social wellbeing. The Elite Engineering Programme will help break down the barriers to becoming an engineer and search in all sectors of society for the best engineering talent to help maintain this country’s pre-eminence.’

With support from businesses the partnership hopes to deliver a schools programme through LEGO MINDSTORM Education sets to nurture an interest in engineering through competitions in state schools from age 12, and university scholarships to make engineering a more attractive subject for students of any background. Students will then be given opportunities to assume industry-based internships.

The partnership hopes also to place visiting professors in universities who will leave a legacy of teaching materials and industry-focused course content and contacts; and support UK university teams taking part in competitions such as Formula Student.

Key findings from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy’ published in September 2012

  • The UK needs to increase (by around 50 per cent per year) the number of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates.
  • 100,000 STEM graduates are needed a year just to maintain the status quo.
  • 830,000 graduate-level STEM experts and 450,000 technicians will be needed by 2020.
  • The UK is slipping down the international innovation league tables and has dropped to eighth globally in the number of US patents registered.
  • The median age of chartered engineers rises by 10 years for every 14 that pass.
  • UK companies already have to recruit experts from abroad.