Recent studies regarding the lack of engineering skills and knowledge in the UK’s young people from primary education to university has caused concerns among Government officials and engineering firms alike. There has been calls for MPs to become more actively involved in showing students in their constituencies just how valuable these skills are, and what opportunities there are available to those with budding interests.
Some have suggested the cause of this is rooted in a generational disinterest in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), that are essentially the foundation and building-block subjects for successful engineering skills. This raises other socio-political issues about whether or not teachers are providing the stimulus required to get their pupils on board with the subjects.
The bigger picture however could attribute part of the blame on other Government agencies, rather than just education. There have been suggestions by some engineering firms that in the UK the dedicated hard work of their companies and individuals is not celebrated or recognised enough to make the profession more appealing to youths.
The Rest of Europe
What’s perhaps more frustrating is how in comparison to other countries in the EU, the UK is way behind when it comes to praising their efforts. In Austria, France and Germany, engineers are held in the same regard as doctors, and the higher education system in Hungary, for example, tries to instil as much practical and technical skill in their graduates as possible. This not only gives more experience to those specifically studying engineering but also gives more substance to the knowledge of the average undergrad.
A Crisis on the Horizon?
Worryingly, if something is not done to alleviate the situation, this skills gap in the current generation is forecasted to get wider, leading to many fearing a potential crisis. The current UK requirements for undergraduate engineers is only around two-thirds of what is needed for stronger economic growth, but what is arguably more troubling is how young people may not leave education equipped with the basic knowledge they will need in their adult life.
Understanding a Generation
It is not all doom and gloom however, what some more savvy engineering businesses have realised is while practical skills may not be as widespread, the current generation are the most technologically aware in human history. By creating websites with digital advice and how-to-guides they are appealing to the smartphone/tablet demographic in a way that provides the expert knowledge through a medium they can relate to; a methodology MPs would perhaps be wise to take notice of.