Engineering and tech giants join forces to STEM £1.5bn annual skills gap
Government urged to support ‘Engineering Kids’ Futures’ to tackle gaping engineering skills shortage through primary education drive
A group of over 150 world-leading engineers, scientists and technology giants, led by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has today called on government to plug the nation’s growing STEM skills gap, which is costing the economy a shocking £1.5bn per annum.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by, amongst others, Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE, will.i.am, and representatives from Rolls Royce, Vodafone and the MOD, the influential group has appealed to the government to work together with educators and industry to develop practical support for teachers of our youngest children and embed engineering in their existing STEM learning. They call on the government to join the campaign and contribute to securing our future as a nation of innovators. Innovators whose skills will be more crucial than ever in the coming decades as we tackle the global challenges posed by achieving net zero and meeting our COP26 pledges.
Reports from the IET this summer estimate a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in the STEM sector: an average of 10 unfilled roles per business in the UK. What is more, the institution’s latest Skills Survey identifies that half (49%) of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties in the skills available to them when trying to recruit.
However, this challenge has not appeared overnight. It is a growing issue that the IET has tracked for the last 15 years – longer than the time it takes for a primary aged-child to complete their education. Future skills need addressing now.
The solution? Simply embed engineering into primary school learning to help bridge the growing skills gap within UK workforces and support #EngineeringKidsFutures.
Professor Danielle George MBE, Immediate Past President, the IET and Engineering Kids’ Futures ambassador, commented of the campaign:
“To ‘build back better’ and fully embrace the ‘green industrial revolution’ promised by the government it is essential to start with solid foundations. By adding more focus on misunderstood terms like engineering and technology, where we know there is a perception problem, it will help young people from all backgrounds learn vital engineering and tech skills early on and increase their career aspirations.
“We propose collaboration between the Government, STEM education supporters, academia, and industry to provide teachers with the tools to showcase that science, design & technology and maths have vital elements of engineering within them and proactively encourage the teaching of engineering in our primary schools.
“This focus and support for schools is fundamental if we want to futureproof the next generation of engineers. And these benefits extend far beyond the classroom – from higher earnings to better job satisfaction, our research shows that those in STEM careers can hit life goals such as financial independence much sooner than their peers.”
Amongst those supporting the IET’s ‘Engineering Kids’ Futures’ campaign is presenter, parent, and sports science graduate, Ore Oduba. Having signed the open letter, Ore comments:
“As a parent of a young child due to start primary school in September next year, this campaign really resonated with me. Like most parents, I want my child’s education to inspire them; to get them excited about learning and how they can make a difference in the world. Teaching children vital skills in engineering and technology early on will not only allow them to understand the real-world applications of subjects like science, maths and design & technology but also provide them with more opportunities to realise their passions and give them access to a greater pool of opportunities.”
Employers also agree that early education is fundamental in solving the skills gap.
Andrew Smyth MEng MIET ARAeS, Presenter & Aerospace Engineer at Rolls-Royce Plc says:
“Engineering and technology skills form the foundations of innovation, yet they’re not sufficiently prioritised in the UK’s education system. We want to change this. That’s why we’re supporting the IET’s call to the government to support #EngineeringKidsFutures.
“Data suggests that 65% of our children will eventually work in a job doesn’t yet exist. If we truly want to help the next generation of young workers thrive in a digital world, futureproofing their education must be a priority. It’s our duty of care as employers and business owners to provide children with equal opportunities to learn vital engineering and technology skills that will allow them to prosper in the modern workforce later in life.”
Ella Podmore MEng, Materials Engineer, McLaren Automotive and IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2020 adds:
“Careers in engineering are inspired at an early age when your imagination knows no limits which is why it so important that we equip our teachers to excite the minds of our children in STEM. From supercars to space-exploration, these exciting careers all have their beginnings in the school classroom.”
Together with representatives from world leading institutions – including The Engineering Council, WISE, Engineering Development Trust, and Engineering in Motion amongst others – and STEM pioneers the IET has signed an open letter to government calling for Engineering Kids’ Futures to be formally introduced into schools by the next academic year (in 2022). This letter has also been signed by leaders at over 150 of the UK’s leading engineering and technology employers – including Rolls Royce, Thames Water and EON.
Find out more about the Engineering Kids’ Future campaign and how you can get involved via the IET website: iet.org/engineeringkidsfutures
 IET ‘Addressing the STEM skills shortage challenge’ report, 11 June 2021
 IET Skills Survey 2021. Research conducted by YouGov. Fieldwork Dates: 6th August - 2nd September 2021