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Engineering is becoming sexy…

Posted by Vicki Eltis on 28th January 2013

It was great to hear last week that Prince Charles is backing the manufacturing and engineering industry by encouraging youngsters to pursue a career in the field.

Sir James Dyson who moved his factory to Malaysia

He said that Britain was in danger of losing its reputation as the “standard bearer of quality manufacturing and engineering” if more youngsters are not attracted into these industries. He is also helping to launch the Engineering Development Trust’s Industrial Cadets initiative, to improve employability among young people aged 12 to 14.

When I was choosing a career I opted for the media route; it was all the rage when I was at college. But if I were to have my time again I would definitely consider engineering. Now I have images of working in teams, finding solutions for everyday problems and designing new products to bring to market. It must be rewarding and the money isn’t too bad either!

Time for a rebrand?

In the past, typically engineering has not conjured up a very sexy image – visions of lab coats, goggles, grease and long-winded equations. But actually, now, it’s an inspirational option for intelligent, forward-thinkers. There are plenty of vacancies despite the recession, and well, who wouldn’t want to be a force behind the design of a brand new mobile phone? (Maybe not the hapi fork though)!

While universities with top engineering departments, like Cambridge, are excelling, it seems career guidance for graduates has been lacking. This is despite the fact that the Royal Academy of Engineering reports the sector to be pervasive across many industries. Its report, Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the economy, states that demand for people in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) occupations exceeds supply.

Time to catch up

Given our long history of innovation it is a tad disappointing to hear that the UK is lagging behind other European countries like Germany in the numbers of firms innovating and inventing.

There are many engineering vacancies in the UK and, with 140,000 engineers set to retire over the next eight years, there will be many more in the decade ahead. We need to act now to ensure there is no skills gap. It’s the perfect time to garner interest from the younger generations.

Inventor, Sir James Dyson has also commented in recent weeks, adding that the government should do more to protect the future of manufacturing in Britain, as he believes there will be up to 60,000 engineering graduates this year.

Cynics may point out he should perhaps have thought about that before moving his factory to Malaysia. But surely that’s the point? Companies are moving factories abroad to save on high UK business rates but improving our engineering and manufacturing sector is a sure fire way to help the UK climb out of this recession.

Take action to succeed

Industrial Cadets is a great example of the type of initiatives we need to attract the engineer of the future.  Hopefully the UK’s engineering and manufacturing sector will follow this lead by setting up apprenticeships and shouting about the great innovations that are boosting the UK economy.

If engineering is going to have a long-term future in this country, then we need UK companies to take action now to help put Britain on the inventor map.


Photo courtesy of BA Business Life.

Vicki Eltis