EngineeringUK supports call for government to tackle engineering skills shortage through primary and secondary education

Dec 20, 2022

EngineeringUK welcomes a new report, led by The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which calls for the government to help tackle the UK’s £1.5bn engineering skills shortage by embedding engineering into the current education curriculum.

The IET’s Engineering Kids’ Futures report is endorsed by over 150 engineering leaders and celebrities including Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE, and EngineeringUK members including Rolls Royce, Siemens and Thales. The report leads with a series of recommendations to the UK government to embed engineering and technology within primary and secondary learning.

An urgent need to close the skills gap

The report comes at a crucial time for the sector – with estimates of a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in the STEM sector and an average of 10 unfilled roles per business in the UK, which is costing the economy a shocking £1.5bn per annum according to STEM Learning. What is more, 49% of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties in the skills available to them when trying to recruit, according to the 2021 IET Skills Survey.

Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at EngineeringUK, said: “We welcome this important report by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and support its recommendations. For the UK to achieve its ambitions around net zero as well as economic growth, we’re going to need a significant increase in the number of engineers over the coming years. We therefore must focus on how we can inspire more young people to see engineering as a career for them.

“This needs to start early, and this report makes some clear recommendations as to what should be done. Engineering as a subject and discipline must be more visible to young people throughout their school life to ensure that we have the engineering workforce of the future that we so desperately need.” 

Recommendations for government

The report highlights the following key recommendations for the UK government:

  • Review the English schools National Curriculum to embed the teaching of engineering, at both primary and secondary levels of education
  • Review the current D&T curriculum at secondary level to refocus it as an ‘engineering and design’ subject, with a possible rebranding of the subject accordingly
  • Review school accountability measures (Progress 7 and Attainment 8) to move D&T into the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) suite of subjects
  • Endorse, actively promote, signpost and support an engineering package of training aligned with the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework
  • Review UK government funded ITT bursaries and scholarships in engineering to increase their value and availability

Increasing awareness of opportunities for young people

David Lakin, IET Head of Education, Safeguarding & Education Policy, said: “As we know, subjects like science and maths are eagerly taught in schools, but connecting them to engineering – the link between these subjects, their purpose and application to the world in which we live – is not currently being made clear.

“We need to ensure there are clearer learning outcomes for these subjects. Put simply, we need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum…There are many options, and the engineering community is ready to help develop and implement these to support government in implementing these recommendations. Our aim to significantly increase the number of quality engineers and technicians entering the workforce can only be achieved by letting young people see the opportunities that a career in the engineering sector presents.”

The report is supported by new IET research, which shows 70% of parents believe primary and secondary education doesn’t teach children about the real-life application of the subjects they learn about. With more than half of parents agree that without formal teaching in engineering and technology, they are worried their child won’t be able to make informed career choices (55%).

This mirrors findings from EngineeringUK’s 2021 Engineering Brand Monitor, which highlighted that only 55% of young people said they know what engineers do. Although this is concerning, it’s not entirely surprising given that in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland engineering is not taught as a core curriculum subject. It is clear that more needs to be done to raise awareness of engineering and what it involves, and to showcase to young people that engineering is all around them.

Find out more about the IET’s Engineering Kids’ Futures report on the IET website.

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