Whilst British engineering is far from dead, news stories frequently bemoan how little fresh engineering talent is coming through in the UK today, and increasingly coordinated efforts are being planned to try and rectify this dearth of interest in engineering.
Recently, James Dyson (left) has become the latest high profile person to take action in this area. According to the BBC website, the successful inventor has pledged an £8 million funding boost to Cambridge University in the last month, and this donation is specifically intended to complete a four storey structure for use by the engineering and science departments.
This is not the first time that Dyson has offered large sums of money to engineering schools, and such advanced facilities are intended to attract more people into engineering careers on a permanent basis. But just why has engineering become such an unattractive career to begin with?
The fact is that a widespread misconception has grown up around engineering. More and more potential graduates are viewing engineering as a tough career that offers poor pay, limited career opportunities, unglamorous or physically demanding work, and some people have also spotted a worrying tendency for people to view engineers as ‘unintelligent’.
The Telegraph gives details about this startling mindset, stating that many schools view people with an aptitude for engineering as beingless intelligent than more “academically minded” individuals. Apparently, the mind of a child at play possesses many qualities that are naturally suited to engineering, but too many schools choose to prioritise the enhancing of other skills rather than nurturing this innate gift.
These findings were compiled by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and according to more research by this body the UK will need to obtain more than a million professional persons if the current engineering base is to be maintained. These professionals would be people operating in the spheres of science, technology or mathematics, as well as engineering, and such an intake would need to be achieved by 2020.
Not only are many children not being encouraging to entertain engineering as a viable career, but many established engineers are also nearing the end of their careers. With fresh talent coming through at too slow a rate, and with many UK engineers now nearing the age of retirement, so stage could be set for a real engineering ‘vacuum’ in the not too distant future.
So what needs to be done? In the aforementioned Telegraph article, a need to pinpoint and cultivate the minds of child ‘engineers’ was noted, as was the need to teach engineering with greater vigour. In another article from the same newspaper, the same sorts of sentiments were being echoed, and if change is to be realised then it will need to be implemented from a young age.
In this story, schools are urged to instruct children properly about engineering, so they begin to see past the prospect of having oily hands on a daily basis, and instead take notice of the substantial opportunities which are present in areas like infrastructure. Concern has also been raised about the definition of ‘engineering’ in the UK too, as the term is used to describe a vast range of practices, and thus it can breed confusion.
The fact is that engineers are in high demand, and the sooner young people realise this the better it will be for the economy of the UK as a whole. Efforts like those of James Dyson will be significant in achieving this end, but only a real reversal at grass-roots level will yield the sort of mass intake that the country craves.
At Airedale Springs, we fully understand the importance of young blood in the sphere of engineering and in 2014 we will be employing at least two more Engineering Apprentices. Our business is built around a strong family run ethic, and products like our quality tension springs would doubtless have suffered without this combination of youthful innovation and proven experience.
As a member of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) and the Engineering Industries Association (EIA), we would love to see engineering flourishing in the UK once again. Airedale Springs is a supporter of the University Technical College (UTC) in Leeds and an Industrial Centre of Excellence (ICE) at the Keighley Campus of the Leeds City Collage.
In the meantime we feel privileged to be able to continue to provide such a reliable and stable service for those who need spring manufacturers. We’re proud to be large enough to deliver real results, whilst being small enough to maintain highly personal service, so feel free to contact us by calling 01535 643456 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a need for springs of any description.