More than 150 engineering leaders and celebrities, led by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), have endorsed a new report that calls on the UK government to help tackle the UK’s engineering skills shortage by embedding engineering and technology into the current primary and secondary curriculums. Among the signatories of the Engineering Kids’ Futures report are Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE, musician will.i.am and representatives from Rolls Royce, Vodafone and the Ministry of Defence.
Estimates suggest that there is a shortfall of more 173,000 workers in the STEM sector in the UK: an average of ten unfilled roles per business in the UK, which is costing the economy an estimated £1.5billion per annum. What’s more, half of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties when it comes to the skills available to them when trying to recruit.
The report puts forward a number of recommendations, including a review of the English schools National Curriculum, with a view to embedding the teaching of engineering at both primary and secondary levels; a review of the current design and technology curriculum at secondary level to refocus it as an ‘engineering and design’ subject, with a possible rebranding of the subject accordingly; a review of the English Baccalaureate with a view to moving design and technology into its suite of subjects; improved engineering training for teachers; and a review of government-funded bursaries and scholarships in engineering with a view to increase their value and availability.
‘As we know, subjects such as 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,’ said David Lakin, the IET’s head of education, safeguarding and education policy. ‘We need to ensure that there are clearer learning outcomes for these subjects. Put simply, we need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum. One way we can do this is by reviewing the current design and technology curriculum, which is a key engineering and technology gateway subject, and give it more importance in the English Baccalaureate suite of subjects.
‘Teacher training is also a key factor, and providing an engineering package aligned with the Initial Teacher Training Core Content Framework is vital to enhance a teacher’s understanding and confidence around talking about engineering in the classroom,’ he continued. ‘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 that shows that 70 per cent of parents believe primary and secondary education doesn’t teach children about the real-life application of the subjects they learn about; more than half of parents are worried that without formal teaching in engineering and technology, their child won’t be able to make informed career choices; 69 per cent of parents say that it’s essential that primary school children are exposed to engineering and technology in order to spark interest in these fields; almost half of parents agree that engineering and technology should be a compulsory core subject at GCSE level; and 53 per cent of parents think that there is too much emphasis on science, maths and English within the current curriculum.
The report can be viewed here.