31st January 2019

New Year of Engineering resolutions

After prompting events, initiatives and programmes to be held across the country throughout 2018 encouraging the next generation of problem solvers, the Year of Engineering has come to a close. The skills gap and dwindling recruitment pool, however, endure and the industry needs to consider what its next steps will be to carry forward the momentum of the past twelve months.

Engineering is undoubtedly, though not always obviously, an integral part of everyday life. In healthcare, it improves lives by ensuring high quality, long lasting buildings. Towns and cities benefit from sports and leisure facilities designed with the community in mind. Throughout any project, regard for the surrounding area helps minimise the negative impacts of construction on the environment.

Despite its ubiquitous influence and impact, engineering is misunderstood (and often disregarded as a blue collar job).

One solution was hinted at by Corina Elena Robea, Structural Engineer in Guildford, describing her creative inspirations in our first article for the YoE: “It’s important not to be afraid of letting go of perceived certainties and thinking outside the box. Inspiration comes from everything, including an old attic or a colleague’s joke, you just have to pay attention.”

When our summer intern Melissa shared her views on engineering in July, she highlighted the multitude of career paths that engineering encompasses. She also noted that teachers and parents need to do more to raise students’ awareness of these options. It is precisely these influential adults that we need to encourage alternate routes as we look to the future of the industry.

In an article in Tes last spring, Director Steve McSorley commented: “Schools need to make time for staff to learn about the profession and there needs to be a wider link between professional institutions and schools.” Without a firm understanding of what engineering is, teachers cannot be expected to confidently encourage students to consider it as an option. Who better to educate them than the professionals themselves?

Crucially, the effort has to extend beyond secondary schools.  Reflecting on the skills gap for the YoE theme ‘Back to School’, Director Nick Russell said: “My view is universities need to be braver in their approach, but it is up to UK businesses to offer these institutions more support and constructive feedback to ensure this.”

What becomes clear from our experiences with the YoE is that making a significant improvement to recruitment will require the involvement of more than just engineers or students. Parents, educators and businesses all need to shift their thinking, understanding and actions. As we go further into the 21st century, environmental issues and advancing technology are swiftly changing the demands placed on the profession. A knowledgeable, skilled recruitment pool of creative thinkers is more crucial than ever.

The Year of Engineering was a much needed catalyst and starting point for an exciting, albeit challenging, road to a stronger industry, prepared to meet the needs of an uncertain future. What are your next steps?

To read our last Year of Engineering article on ‘Shaping the Future’, click here.