The head of the professional engineering body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has told a committee of MPs that the British society’s lack of understanding of the role of engineering, and the value of engineering skills to the economy, needs to be addressed.
He said this must begin with better careers advice at schools.
“More work needs to be done to improve the public’s understanding of what engineering is and the diversity of engineering jobs and careers, including vocational routes and especially apprenticeships,” Nigel Fine, chief executive of the IET, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into ‘Engineering Skills’.
According to Fine, if this is not addressed, there will be a worryingly small pipeline of young people going on to pursue technical careers, resulting in a continuing skills gap and negative consequences for the UK economy.
“Careers advice in the UK is very poor,” said Fine.
“Schools are still focused on sending pupils to university rather than through vocational and technical pathways.Teachers and careers advisors within schools must do more to raise awareness of these routes as a viable option for their students,” he said.
According to Fine, skills issues facing the engineering sector include the need for a mix of both academic and vocational training to be offered so that technical learning opportunities are provided for everyone who wishes to pursue them.
“Properly accredited and approved engineering apprenticeship schemes provide a high-quality alternative to traditional academic routes. Starting an apprenticeship should be seen as the first step to a successful engineering career with clear pathways through to the most senior roles,” said Fine.
The Head of the IET highlighted the value of technical education to complement the English Baccalaureate (for example the application of science and mathematics using Design & Technology and the Engineering Diploma at Key Stages 2 and 3).
Data from the IET’s 2012 Skills and Demand in Industry Annual Survey shows that the engineering workforce age profile continues to increase, which could become problematic if more young people do not enter the profession.
Matthew Harrison from the Royal Academy of Engineering also highlighted the shortage of engineering graduates to the MPs.
Educational for Engineering