The fourth of November was the start of a big week for the engineering community. During the same week that the Perkins’ review was published, prompting Government to make available nearly £49 million in funding for engineering skills, 4 – 8 November marked the very first Tomorrow’s Engineers Week – an event I hope will become an established calendar event in the same vein as The Big Bang Fair.
Among the Government’s announced commitments to engineering, the Tomorrow’s Engineers schools engagement programme – led by EngineeringUK and the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with the wider engineering community – will receive £250,000 of seed funding. This will enable us to accelerate employer engagement plans, ultimately reaching tens of thousands more young people with vital engineering careers messaging – a step towards bridging the skills gap, which is certainly something to celebrate.
Tomorrow’s Engineers Week represented a collaboration between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the engineering community. The aim of the Week was to bring engineering to life for young people and to promote the message that engineering offers rewarding, creative and well-paid job opportunities for young men and women in a broad range of dynamic environments. The Week and the commitments made to strengthen engineering skills in the UK demonstrate a real sea-change in Governmental support for STEM education leading to engineering careers.
As part of our contribution, EngineeringUK kicked off the Week by bringing The Big Bang Fair to Parliament on Monday 4 November. The Big Bang @ Parliament gave politicians, policy-makers and the business community – often tied to their constituencies and/or their desks – the chance to meet award-winning young scientists and engineers, and experience the careers inspiration behind The Big Bang Fair on their own turf.
The pupils showcasing their projects were an inspiration, and illustrated both the importance and the outcomes of The Big Bang and Tomorrow’s Engineers programmes. Their projects tackled issues from global problems, such as bee sustainability and disaster shelters in third world countries to technological innovations, including a transporter robot, hovercraft and interactive bin. These, alongside some of the UK’s leading engineering business and industry, BAE Systems, Balfour Beatty, Jaguar Land Rover and UTC Aerospace Systems, went a long way to illustrating up close the variety of careers that studying STEM subjects can lead to.
The event could not have been the success it was without such strong cross-party support; this multi-lateral agreement on the importance of engineering to the UK bodes well for continued support for the sector. The event itself was delivered in partnership with the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee and sponsored by Andrew Miller MP. It was packed-out with Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parliamentary guests including Universities and Science Minister David Willetts MP, whose speech recognised the impact of The Big Bang and Tomorrow’s Engineers.
The flagship Big Bang Fair in March each year is now Europe’s largest STEM event for young people with regional and ‘@ School’ events now taking place across the UK. The Fair is a shining example of what we, as a community, can achieve through sustained collaboration.
As Tomorrow’s Engineers goes from strength to strength, it will take continued support and collaboration between Government and the rest of us to keep this positive movement on track – luckily, as the numerous partners behind this year’s Tomorrow’s Engineers Week demonstrated, the engineering community is trailblazing when it comes to that.
Paul Jackson is chief executive of EngineeringUK
By Paul Jackson