Whenever you buy a product, you might take little notice of exactly where it’s made but some nations take great pride in their creativity and their ability to make items that help to make the world a better place. A lot of toys come with ‘made in Taiwan’ branding, for example, but in the UK we pride ourselves on our engineering history.
However, many believe that that is just where the UK engineering sector is heading – into history – with more and more engineering plants closing down as owners choose to locate overseas where factories and offices are cheaper, and their target markets are based. In retaliation to this, and to encourage the British youngsters to get “hands on”, the Government have recently promised to give a much needed boost to the engineering sector by spending an estimated £49m in an attempt to encourage youngsters to study engineering at their local colleges and Universities, and to start looking for intern, part and full-time positions in the industry on sites like Jobstoday.co.uk.
Chief Scientific advisor to the Department for Business, Professor John Perkins, recently said that “We should support the UK’s young people by preparing them to compete for highly-paid skilled engineering jobs, improving their career prospects and reducing the need to import engineering skills.” The final part of this statement refers to the statistic that immigrants account for around 20% of those working in electronic and optical engineering or oil and gas extraction.
The Government are under no illusions that simply throwing money at the project alone won’t be sufficient, with Perkins and business secretary Vince Cable both saying that employers, teachers and parents need to encourage young people to get their hands dirty in engineering roles. Inventor Sir James Dyson recently revealed that around 26% of engineering graduates “do not go into engineering or technical professions” and that “engineering postgraduates need to be encouraged with generous salaries” claiming that the salary of £7,000 for post-grad research is “insulting.”
The industry in the UK, as mentioned, has always been a popular one and a sector that has kept income coming into the country for decades, but with the number of young people moving into the industry it is undoubtedly a worrying time. Just why aren’t people moving into engineering roles though?
One reason could be the common misconception is that engineering is based around metalwork and building the framework for buildings and other solid structures, when in actual fact engineering is one of the most diverse sectors. For example, there are positions open in military engineering, giving people the chance to work alongside the armed forces on a variety of projects including the maintenance of essential equipment, development of communication methods and the creation and repair of military vehicles.
Engineering gives people the opportunity to be creative and to change the world as we know it. Yes, there is often a lot of work based around metal structures, but engineers are at the heart of so much more that we might not be aware of – such as the supports that hold up the building you’re sitting in right now, and the bodywork of the car you used to drive to work or drop the kids off at school. For those very reasons, we need to encourage our “hands on” youth to get down and dirty with the grease.