A group of more than 150 engineers, scientists and technology companies, led by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has signed an open letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that calls on the government to plug the nation’s growing STEM skills gap, which is estimated to be costing the economy £1.5billion per year, through a primary education drive.
The letter, signed by, among others, Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE, will.i.am and representatives from Rolls Royce, Vodafone and the MOD, appeals to the government to work with educators and industry to develop practical support for primary teachers to embed engineering in children’s existing STEM learning.They call on the government to join the IET’s Engineering Kids’ Futures campaign.
According to recent IET reports, there is currently a shortfall of more than 173,000 workers in the STEM sector, with an average of ten unfilled roles per business in the UK.The institution’s latest Skills Survey suggests that half of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties finding candidates with the required skills when trying to recruit.
The IET says that it has been tracking the issue for the past 15 years – longer than the time it takes for a primary-aged child to complete their education.
‘To “build back better” and fully embrace the “green industrial revolution” promised by the government, it is essential to start with solid foundations,’ said Professor Danielle George MBE, immediate past president of the IET and an Engineering Kids’ Futures ambassador. ‘By adding more focus on misunderstood terms such as engineering and technology, where we know there is a perception problem, it will help young people from all backgrounds learn vital engineering and tech skills early on and increase their career aspirations.
‘We propose a collaboration between the government, STEM education supporters, academia and industry to provide teachers with the tools to showcase that science, design and technology, and maths have vital elements of engineering within them and proactively encourage the teaching of engineering in our primary schools,’ she continued. ‘This focus and support for schools is fundamental if we want to futureproof the next generation of engineers. And these benefits extend far beyond the classroom – from higher earnings to better job satisfaction, our research shows that those in STEM careers can hit life goals such as financial independence much sooner than their peers.’ ‘Engineering and technology skills form the foundations of innovation, yet they’re not sufficiently prioritised in the UK’s education system,’ said Andrew Smyth, an aerospace engineer at Rolls-Royce. ‘We want to change this. That’s why we’re supporting the IET’s call to the government to support #EngineeringKidsFutures. Data suggests that 65 per cent of our children will eventually work in a job doesn’t yet exist. If we truly want to help the next generation of young workers thrive in a digital world, future-proofing their education must be a priority. It’s our duty of care as employers and business owners to provide children with equal opportunities to learn vital engineering and technology skills that will allow them to prosper in the modern workforce later in life.’