The wheels of industry cannot turn without engineers. The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of engineers who have left an indelible mark on society throughout the three industrial revolutions.
The forefathers of the First Industrial Revolution such as Boulton, Watt, Brunel and Stephenson trip off the tongue, while in more modern times the likes of James Dyson has flown the flag for British engineering.
Not every engineer can be famous, but as one of the great industrial powers of the world, the UK has a wealth of engineering experience and continues to boast millions of men and women whose daily lives are delivering engineering greatness.
Engineering is a force for good in the UK and its importance should not be understated. Engineering UK, in a report published earlier this year, identified that 28 per cent of enterprises in the UK are engineering related; that the industry accounts for 23 per cent of the UK’s total turnover and a total of 5.6m people work in engineering.
The world of engineering encompasses many strands and many sectors and this year has seen a campaign to showcase all of that, with the UK celebrating the Year of Engineering – a government-backed initiative to highlight the profession.
The curtain will come down on the campaign shortly and there will no doubt be analysis of its impact over the past 12 months in its aims to inspire the next generation of engineers that Britain will be requiring in the very near future.
There may be no need for Lord Kitchener-style posters imploring, ‘Your Country Needs You’, however, the nation is facing a significant shortfall of engineers – more than 200,000 per year according to the Engineering UK report.
Faced with this, the industry has worked together on the Year of Engineering to educate, enthral and inspire thousands of young people to consider becoming an engineer. It has focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) initiatives, key to finding those future engineers, as well as apprenticeships, which show a career pathway and the rewards of working in engineering.
The Royal Academy of Engineering, which has used the hashtag #thisisengineering to promote the cause, noted that their campaign ‘is designed to reshape the perception of engineering, and give more young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore how they could follow what they love into a varied and fulfilling engineering career’.
They have not been alone as the likes of the Institute of Engineering and Technology have been active all year, while they have even brought a festive feel to promoting the cause with a #SantaLovesSTEM.
But other organisations like Engineers without Borders and STEM Learning are also playing a role in working with engineers and educators to widen the appeal and provide a platform that will entice more into the sector.
We have an establishment right on our doorstep, UTC Warrington, which we are proud to be involved with, that is delivering STEM as well as specialising in Science and Engineering education to deliver future engineers.
Across the engineering spectrum, there has also been a push to engage more girls and young women to increase the number of females in engineering. The industry has seen a rise of two percent in the women in the sector to 11 per cent in the past two years – but work remains ongoing to raise that further.
The Women’s Engineering Society, which celebrates it centenary in 2019, will use its anniversary to continue to raise awareness with a wide range of initiatives including International Women In Engineering Day.
But business and government are also playing a part. Major firms like Airbus, FlyBe, Aston Martin, Renishaw, JLR and Siemens are amongst many businesses that have developed and increased the number of engineering apprenticeships. The opportunity to ‘learn and earn’ in a high-tech environment is proving incredibly alluring to youngsters who had envisaged their careers going in a different direction.
Meanwhile, the government is ploughing millions into education at all levels to enhance STEM and engineering teaching, while money is being directed towards businesses via the Industrial Strategy to enable them to also develop opportunities to secure the world-leading engineers of the future.