Tomorrow’s engineers today

The Paul Jackson blog

Specialist teachers and expert advice are vital to help young people realise their potential if they want to go into engineering, says the chief executive of EngineeringUK

A recent poll saw engineering come second in the top ten professions parents would like for their children. At 45% it was only four points behind doctors, slightly above lawyers and far more popular than banking. It’s fantastic that engineering is enjoying this level of status and desirability, the next step is to generate a real understanding of everything the sector does so that in turn more young people are inspired to go into engineering.

If we’re going to do this we need to ensure young people have access to first class careers information, advice and guidance. So many people and experiences influence young people’s career aspirations and we need to highlight to them the relevance of engineering and the diverse opportunities it offers.

Zavier Peart-Lawrence (21), Apprentice Civil Engineer, is working for Balfour Beatty on the Olympic Park transformation project

The engineering community is already working together to amplify and simplify career messaging, we are bringing business and schools closer together and are providing quality teacher placement opportunities.

We have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and major engineering institutions to present clear policy recommendations to address engineering’s critical skills shortage. We agree that we need more specialist teachers in schools to drive teenagers’ achievement and aspiration and we need to tie in Ofsted ratings with the rating of careers provision for 11 to 16 year olds.

We believe all science, mathematics and design and technology teacher training should include a compulsory STEM careers module and that all teachers should spend one day a year in industry. We want schools to be incentivised to increase take-up of maths and physics at A level.

So they can see for themselves the relevance of what they are learning in the classroom, we are recommending to policymakers that all 11-14 year-olds have at least four days a year of extra-curricular STEM activities.

As a community we want more young people, from all backgrounds, to understand the range of careers engineering has to offer and to see a place for themselves in the sector. For many the route into engineering will be a vocational one and driving take up of that option will need more that an apprenticeships advertising campaign. It needs real support for those taking or considering taking the vocational route.

As a proud father I helped my daughter on her journey to university, a well-trodden path that has clear steps with support and guidance along the way. This simplified process and ease of application needs to be extended to would be apprentices. We need to make it easier for young people who are keen to build on their learning and lay the foundations for their careers and recommend a single UCAS style application system for academic and higher vocational routes.

At every decision point we want out future engineers to receive up-to-date information, sound advice and a clear route to their chosen career and whatever stage they’re at we want to ensure they are inspired, encouraged and developed.

 We are currently gearing up to our second Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (3-7 November), which aims to build on last year’s activity and to get businesses, professional engineering institutions, schools and individuals involved in activities that showcase the industry and inspire young people.  As we approach the first anniversary of the Perkins’ Review of Engineering Skills I hope that many of you will already be thinking about activities or events you could host to get young people excited about the prospects of a career in engineering.

This is one aspect of the wider Tomorrow’s Engineers programme is managed by EngineeringUK, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, STEMNET, Professional Engineering Institutions, Key Delivery Partners and businesses. The programme includes industry visits, workshops, STEM Ambassador partnerships and careers resources, to help schools to incorporate engineering into the current curriculum and plant the seeds needed to grow local engineering talent required by businesses.

We have just completed the pilot stage of the Tomorrow’s Engineers employer engagement expansion project, the aim of which is to coordinate, on a region-by-region basis, the school-based careers initiatives and activities that engineering employers are delivering. It is designed to become a national programme that provides regional-level support to business, linking engineering employers with schools and helping create the next generation of engineers.