The skills gap in UK engineering has taught us a valuable lesson: there is no such thing as a quick fix. British engineering will progress only through sustained collaborative efforts, consistency and a cultural shift.
As the Perkins review highlighted in 2013, parents, teachers, employers and the government should collaborate to encourage young people from any background to regard engineering as a fulfilling and exciting career.
What our industry needs is to shatter outmoded stereotypes. Engineering does not equal manual labour; it is a world of thrilling and rewarding career opportunities. Engineering is not for men only; it welcomes people from both genders, all ethnic backgrounds and any walk of life. Engineering is anything but dull; it’s one of the most imaginative and creative professions in the world.
The winner of the 2014 Women’s Engineering Society Prize at the Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards (run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology) was Lucy Ackland. She had to work hard to persuade her teachers to allow her to leave school at 16 to become an apprentice at Renishaw. She went on to achieve a first-class honours engineering degree and has led a project team developing the next generation of metal 3D printing machines.
As a leading UK engineering company, Renishaw should in theory have been among the first whose recruitment suffered as a result of the skills gap. However, the number of our apprentice and graduate applications has trebled in the past few years, as a direct result of our collaborations with schools, universities, STEM-based organisations, career advisers and government agencies.
There is no hasty remedy for the UK’s shortage of engineers. The only solution is a continuous, combined effort to make the profession more appealing to young people, their parents and teachers. It won’t take one year, five or 10. It is a perennial commitment that we make to future generations.
Sir David Roberts McMurtry
Chairman and chief executive, Renishaw