The Inclusive University

We need to double number of young engineering students   

Posted by Valerie Russell Emmott | 0 Comments 
18Apr2016

Catherine Hobbs, Head of Engineering, Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol, reflecting on the latest report from Engineering UK.

Engineering is important to the nation, and we need more engineers. This message is certainly getting across loud and clear, from Government, from employers and from the professional bodies.

But what is the effect on the South West regional economy and where should effort be concentrated to address the need for more engineers? The latest Engineering UK report, launched on 10 February 2016, contains a wealth of data on the contribution of engineering to the economy and on the needs of employers.

For the first time, the data is broken down by region so we can see exactly how the South West is affected. The report tells us that over 27 per cent of the UK’s GDP comes from engineering and that this contribution is growing. In the South West alone almost 55,000 engineering-related enterprises were registered last year – up nearly 5 per cent on the previous year.
The annual turnover of engineering industry in 2014 in the South West was almost £78 billion, a growth of 11 per cent on 2013. However we are facing some severe skill shortages that will stifle further growth unless addressed now. It takes at least three years to produce a graduate engineer, and longer if you take on board that we need to start with children as young as 11 if we are to motivate them to consider an engineering career.

The evidence is that the 11-14 age group is critical and the Engineering UK report calls for employers to provide more high quality work experience and support for schools in the region to inspire this age group. More than 16,000 engineers will be required in the South West by 2022 which will mean doubling the number of young people doing engineering degrees and apprenticeships (including degree apprenticeships) over the next six years.

This is a possibility. At UWE Bristol we have doubled the number of engineering graduates over the past four years with very strong graduate employment outcomes (82 per cent of whom are in graduate employment at 6 months after graduation, and virtually 100 per cent of them employed at 3.5 years).

We have done this through stimulating demand with exciting outreach such as our involvement with Bloodhound SSC, and collaborative work with employers to develop and contribute to programmes that match their needs. The first degree apprentices from our innovative programme with Airbus, delivered jointly by UWE and City of Bristol College, rolled off the production line in November 2015 and will be followed by many more from a range of engineering employers.

Of course another aspect highlighted in the Engineering UK Report and acknowledged by Government, industry and education is that if we want to grow the number of graduates and apprentices we need to ensure that the whole population is represented. The under-representation of girls in engineering is not a new issue, but organisations like Tomorrow’s Engineers, who put on the Big Bang and Big Bang Near You shows, are starting to make a real difference to the perceptions of girls and their important influencers – parents and teachers – about engineering as an exciting and rewarding career for all.

This opinion piece appeared in the Bristol Post on 13 April 2016.

 

 

tags: Gender, inclusion, Learning 2020, Strategy 2020, Student
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