Britain has a proud engineering heritage, leading the world in sectors like aerospace and automotive. From railways connecting our cities, to tunnels connecting countries, the profession continues to thrive. In 2017, 23% of X4 Group’s revenue was delivered by X4 Engineering, with placements of experienced engineers in 2017 increasing by 32% compared to the previous year. However, there is currently a severe engineering skills shortage of 20,000 engineering graduates each year. The problem is compounded by the fact that only a third of parents are aware of what engineers do, which causes even more lack of knowledge.
The UK Government announced that 2018 will be ‘the year of Engineering.’ The UK Space Agency is joining forces with partners across government and industry to give thousands of young people inspiring experiences of engineering.
But what exactly does this mean for engineering in 2018, and what will the year of engineering entail?
The aim: Build awareness around engineering as a career
Immediate action is needed by governments, the private sector and industry bodies to address this shortfall, and by presenting the sector as a rewarding and exciting career choice, the Year of Engineering hopes to recruit more and more young people into engineering roles.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph a coalition of major technical employers said “Our ambition is to foster better awareness and understanding of engineering in schools and showcase to families the variety and creativity engineering offers, so more young people consider it as a career.”
The government has also promised to “consult” on apprenticeship funding, making it more flexible, which will hopefully make it easier for bigger employers to support their supply chains to meet their skills needs.
Books, events and tours
On a practical level, the Year of Engineering will be full of exciting events aimed at young people and their parents, all of which are designed to nudge them towards a career in the sector. These will include the release of a new book on the topic by children’s publishing company Usborne, as well as more investment from private companies into the Tomorrow’s Engineers Energy Quest events for schoolchildren to attend tours of engineering sites.
The role of the UK Space Agency, meanwhile, suggests that those who work in aeronautical engineering will have a particularly strong role to play across the year.
In addition, adults who have already been successful in the engineering field will be on hand to advise young people through a variety of social media channels. Parents will be invited in on the action too and will be asked to help give their kids a little more of a boost when it comes to problem-solving, homework and more.
Closing the gender gap
One thing’s for sure, engineering remains a male-dominated profession, even in 2018 and as a result there is a significant gender gap in place with 92% of engineers being male. Just eight percent of registered engineers and engineering technicians in Britain are women, which is not only low – it’s one of the lowest numbers across the continent, too. The industry also lacks diversity with 94% of the workforce white (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2015).
With some people laying the blame for this problem squarely at the door of socialisation and the effects that outdated gender stereotypes can have on children from a young age, many engineers – such as Ann Watson, the Chief Executive of Semta hope that the 2018 Year of Engineering can encourage more girls to choose the profession as a career. She recently said “If we’re going to beat our skills shortage, and if we’re going to get the very best out of everyone who has the potential to be an engineer, then we need to bust through our massive gender gap, and quickly,”
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