Engineers are vital to the UK economy and more needs to inspire and promote engineering skills and to support skills training if we are to compete globally.
Professor John Perkins’ recent review of UK engineering skills examines the provision of engineers in the economy, offering recommendations to secure the talent pipeline.
The UK will need roughly 100,00 new engineering professionals each year, according to forecasts by The Royal Academy of Engineering. In the short term businesses are having to ‘make do’ with the skills levels they have inherited or look abroad. ( Immigrants make up 20% of professionals in strategically important sectors e.g. oil and gas extraction, aerospace & computer engineering ). However in the long term there is much that the education and training sector, with the support of the Government, can do to ensure the future workforce has the right skills.
Engineering skills are in demand throughout the economy from professional services, energy and communications to the construction industry. Perkins highlights that these skills are valuable across the labour market as engineers’ analytical approach and project management skills are applicable to any working environment.
To secure the flow of talent into engineering careers Perkins suggests that we need to look at the full education ‘pipeline’ starting at the beginning and inspiring young people.
“We must inspire young people throughout their education. We must improve the engineering skills supply system to help develop the types of engineer which current and future industries need.”
- Professor Perkins, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills.
In reviewing the vocational and FE training the report questions just how responsive is the further education and skills sector? There is evidence of skills mismatches between FE provision and the real skills that local businesses need as well as cases where FE colleges have been unable to respond to local skills demands and real jobs due to inflexible funding rules.
Perkins observes that being flexible, targeted and employer driven, and strong employer – provider collaboration are key to success. The lack of responsiveness in the system could hold us back.
The report offers 22 recommendations for action by the Government, the education sector, UK businesses and the engineering profession. These suggestions, although specifically focused on the training engineers are applicable to all areas of Further Education where sector specific ‘skills gaps’ are evident.
Here are 10 key recommendations affecting the education sector (including further and vocational education)
- A-levels - The Government should consult the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and institute of Physics on revisions to A-level physics to ensure they will provide a sound foundation to progress to degree-level study. Continued Government support schools will be needed to increase progression to A-level physics, especially among female students.
- Teacher Training & Development – The Government should focus on teacher recruitment and training to shortage subjects. The engineering community should also support professional development for teachers, providing industry experience to put their teaching in a practical context and enabling teachers to better inspire and inform their students.
- Level 2 and 3 Qualifications – The Government and engineering community should work together to develop and promote vocational routes for 16-19 year olds.
- Work Experience – Should be supported by the engineering community and employers.
- Apprenticeships - The engineering community needs to work with the Government to develop more Trailblazer Apprenticeships and build upon SFA research pilots.
- Elite Provision - Develop vocational training for adults to learn the latest engineering techniques and approaches.
- Knowledge Sharing – Employers should encourage staff to share their skills and knowledge to learners.
- Learning Technologies - Increased application of education technology will allow providers to extract maximum value from lectures & course materials.
- University Work Placements - Employers should engage with university students such as offering work placements.
- Funding - should be reviewed to ensure that engineering courses are financially sustainable for high quality programmes.
Read the review in full – Professor John Perkins Review of Engineering Skills pdf