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Students call for better work experience to inform engineering career choices

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The Royal Academy of Engineering, in collaboration with Engineering UK, has launched a 10 point action plan in parliament to help inspire future generations of engineers.

The plan, part of the This is Engineering campaign, is informed by students (aged between 13-16 years old), and has been developed in response to the significant skills shortage in engineering – the latest figures from Engineering UK indicate an annual demand for 124,000 engineers and a shortfall of 59,000.

The action plan calls for more businesses to pledge to run “taster days”– a shorter version of work experience - to help students understand the varied role of engineering and for the government to incorporate “taster days” into the upcoming careers strategy.

Following new research conducted by You Gov that shows that teenagers are most likely to turn to Google (52%) for career inspiration, ahead of their parents (41%) and teachers (37%), the plan calls for more careers information to be hosted online and a focused effort by government and industry to provide better information on further education and careers opportunities for technicians.

The report also urges politicians, education providers and the wider business community to support and promote local career fairs and for politicians and businesses to proactively champion GCSE Design and Technology (D&T) courses in their local areas. According to 2017 figures, D&T has disappeared from nearly half of schools.

Vicky Ford MP, who sponsored the event at parliament and is a member of the Science and Technology Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “Engineering today is anything but dull. Young people with engineering skills are in huge demand. It is a national disgrace that we have the lowest level of women engineers of any EU country. The evidence shows that women who become engineers are better paid, have greater job opportunities and are happier in their career choice than the vast majority of their peers. What’s not to want!”

The 10 point action plan was developed based on areas of common agreement between students (aged between 13-16 years old) following the Future Collective event in Manchester. Around 60 students, aged 13 to 16, attended the event at the Sharp Project to work with engineers in industries not usually associated with the sector on a series of interactive challenges.

Royal Academy of Engineering CEO Hayaatun Sillem added: “The action plan presented today outlines a number of recommendations for both businesses and government that would reduce the chronic skills and diversity shortfall that the engineering profession faces and help open the door for many more young people to careers that shape the future – from developing the next smartphone to creating medical devices that will save lives.

“Engineering is essential to the future growth of the UK economy and underpins so much of our day to day lives. We look forward to working with government and industry to take forward these recommendations.”

This Is Engineering is a campaign to give more young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore careers in engineering, and to raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities available in the profession. Launched in the government’s Year of Engineering, it is being backed by a consortium of major engineering companies including Mott MacDonald and WSP.

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