04 November 2013

Upbeat response to engineering skills review

Review of Engineering Skills
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has given its strong support to a new UK report – called a Review of Engineering Skills – by Professor John Perkins, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The wide-ranging review makes over 20 recommendations and includes a call for industrialists, professional bodies and educators to work together to ensure the UK’s engineering base is ‘fit-for-purpose‘. It is estimated that the UK needs over 100,000 new engineers, scientists and technologists each year, up to the end of the decade, to avoid skill shortages1.

A major theme of the review is an emphasis on inspiring young people to pursue careers in engineering, especially girls aged 11-14 years. Research suggests that as few as seven per cent of girls in the UK are considering pursuing a career in engineering when they leave school2.

Dr David Brown, IChemE’s chief executive, said: “We welcome this review and believe it is a firm foundation for attracting more young people to the engineering profession, improving education standards and avoiding skill shortages in the long-term.

“It is clear that some change is needed and all stakeholders can do more to inspire young people and make it easier for industry to find the skills and people they need. IChemE is committed to achieving this aim.

“The low levels of participation by young women in engineering are a major concern to everyone in the profession. Chemical engineering leads the way attracting twice the proportion of girls to apply to university as engineering in general3.

“We also welcome the announcement of £250,000 of seed funding for Tomorrow's Engineers campaign to help encourage more people to consider careers in engineering. Professor Perkins knows a fair bit about attracting young people into engineering. As President of IChemE he launched the whynotchemeng campaign, which has nearly tripled the number of young people applying to university to study chemical engineering over the past decade”.

The review also makes a series of recommendations to improve academic and vocational education.

Dr Brown continued: “We are particularly supportive of the proposed changes to Apprenticeships. Like the UK’s higher education sector, they have the potential to be the envy of the world. However, more needs to be done to raise their status and quality.

“We believe accreditation of Apprenticeships by professional bodies, like IChemE, will help deliver the necessary step-change, make them attractive to more young people and provide a seamless transition into further and higher education.

“There is also an opportunity for professional bodies to work together better to be more industry-friendly and efficient.

“We advocate a sector-by-sector approach, where industry only has to deal with one body, like IChemE, rather than multiple agencies and organisations”, he concluded.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).