What’s not to love about engineering? Asks the Brompton Bicycle MD
My key idea: Business leaders and politicians shouldwork together to inspire the next generation of engineers. Also, employers need to go to schools and colleges to talk to young people about the industry.
Can you imagine a world without manufacturers and engineers? Engineering has given us smartphones, spaceships and 3D printing. From bridges and tunnels to cars and trains – engineers built Britain.
So it is easy to understand why engineering is at the heart of our country’s economy. It fosters innovation, creates highly skilled and well-paid jobs, and rebalances our economy with a focus on exports and import substitutions. However, as a sector it faces significant challenges. There is a pressing need to educate and train the next generation of young engineers, to make them aware of what a fantastic and rewarding career engineering can be.
To secure Britain’s growth and prosperity, government and business must work together to make sure this future becomes reality. Research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills shows that there will be around 800,000 manufacturing jobs to fill in the years up to 2020, as people retire or leave the sector. This is a problem because manufacturing employers struggle more than employers in any other sector.
A whopping one out of three of us have job vacancies that can’t be filled due to a lack of skills, qualifications or experience. And we are not talking about £14,000, a boiler suit and a monkey wrench; graduate engineers are capable of acquiring a starting salary far above the national average and our fully trained assemblers and master brazers at Brompton are taking home salaries that reflect their specialised skill-sets, delivering a proper lifestyle and pride in doing a fine job.
At the same time, close to a million 16 to 24-year-olds are still without a job. Part of this disconnect is down to widespread misconceptions about the sector, and its lack of attractiveness among young people.
I might be biased, but what’s not to love about working in engineering? There are hundreds of different types of jobs and the days of greasy overalls are long gone. The UK’s big manufacturing players are using cutting-edge technology to deliver awesome products that are made in the UK and sold around the world.
So how do we inspire and enthuse the next generation of engineers, and bust the myths that prevail? An absolutely crucial point for me is the role of employers: the best motivation and advice can only come from them. Starting early is also important – 16-year-olds already think of engineering as “getting your hands dirty” or “only for boys”.
Opening young people’s eyes to the world of possibility within engineering at an early age is an important first step – making sure they are technically savvy and academically competent is the second.
We’ve made a start at Brompton. I encourage my employees to take the time to visit schools through www.inspiringthefuture.org, talk about the work they do and answer questions. We also work with outreach programmes specifically for young women.
I would like to see a co-ordinating body of business leaders and politicians established that would be responsible for overseeing a strategic plan for bringing new talent into the industry.
We need to harness the power of these initiatives to create a national impact.