Stephen Metcalfe: We must remind people that engineering is an integral part of our lives
In 2018 it is my mission to make MPs aware of the crucial role they play in ensuring schools, colleges and businesses seize the opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers, writes Stephen Metcalfe
Engineers – whether they are working in aerospace, energy or artificial intelligence – are vital to the lifeblood of our economy. That’s why the government has launched the 2018 Year of Engineering, a campaign to tackle the engineering skills gap by bringing young people face-to-face with role models and experiences, and highlighting the different pathways into the profession.
To date, around 1,300 partners large and small have signed up from across all sectors, including education, industry, charities and trusts. There is huge enthusiasm to deliver direct experiences to inspire young children, their families and teachers to open their eyes to STEM professions and overturn outdated perceptions. It offers an opportunity for MPs to get involved in their constituencies and already a number are doing just that.
Research from Engineering UK has found that only one in three parents knows what people in engineering do and it is estimated the industry needs 202,000 skilled recruits each year to 2024. Ensuring we have the right skills is at the heart of the government’s industrial strategy, and engineering makes a major contribution to the UK economy, accounting for 26% of our GDP.
To overcome the skills shortages, we need to remind people how engineering is an integral part of all our lives, from the warmth and light in our homes, to how we work, travel and keep in touch. With investment in major infrastructure, medical and environmental challenges to solve, and ground-breaking new technology, the vital role engineering plays offers fantastic career opportunities.
It is not only a secure and well-paid career but – perhaps more importantly – offers the chance to be creative, innovative and to shape the future of the world around us.
As government envoy for the Year of Engineering, it is my mission to make MPs aware of the crucial role they play in ensuring schools, colleges and businesses across the UK seize the opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers.
As well as reversing outdated perceptions of the profession, the Year of Engineering also aims to tackle the lack of diversity in its workforce which currently is 91% male and 94% white.
To begin the task of closing this gap and widening the pool of young people who consider engineering careers, we are working with our partners to give young people across the UK a million direct and inspiring experiences of the profession – whether that’s through the chance to meet an engineer at their school, a behind-the-scenes tour, or an interactive workshop or challenge.
It’s vital that the campaign is championed across government, parliament and industry. Pledges of support from my fellow MPs will help drive this right across the country.
We hosted an event in parliament last December where more than 30 MPs committed to supporting the campaign in their constituencies. Pledges included connecting schools with local employers and encouraging businesses to take part in ‘open door’ events for schools and families.
We’ve seen Fareham MP Suella Fernandes meeting engineering apprentices, and Banbury MP Victoria Prentis working with local schools to highlight engineering courses available at nearby colleges.
Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan organised an engineering festival which brought 3,000 schoolchildren face-to-face with local employers, and Birmingham, Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur Gill pledged to help get more young people into engineering.
Throughout the year, the campaign is highlighting the role that engineering plays in everything from sport and special effects to social care, with inspiring activities being delivered by partners including Airbus, BAE Systems, the BBC, Ocado, Usborne, Siemens and Shell.
And we can do lots more – so do join us! By championing engineering role models and bringing young people face-to-face with engineering opportunities, we can send a clear message that engineering careers are a chance for all young people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social background, to have a real impact on the lives of those around them.
To find out more about the Year of Engineering, visit www.yearofengineering.gov.uk. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter @YoEgovuk and on Instagram.
Stephen Metcalfe is Conservative MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock and a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee