Can STEM solve the Engineering shortage?

year of engineering

Calling all engineers!

2018 is marked as the Year of Engineering by the government[1]. This is to address a shortage of young people aspiring to be engineers. The shortage is predicted to be 20,000 short of the jobs available in the sector leading to a significant impact on productivity and growth in the UK alone. Big investment from partners such as Siemens, The Science Museum group and BAE systems are committing to show young people, and their parents, from all backgrounds what engineering means. It’s not just about addressing a skills gap. The campaign aims to showcase the creativity and innovation of engineering careers and widen the pool of young people who consider the profession, diversifying a workforce that is 91% male and 94% white.[2]

Hebert Hoover once said:

Engineering … it is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.[3]

So, how can educators help?

First, we can seek out opportunities to get young children involved in engineering projects in schools and the local community beyond the typical image of a man in a yellow helmet. There is so much more diversity to the role of an engineer beyond this stereotyped image. Women only make up around 9% of the engineering workforce (Engineering UK State of Engineering 2017 report) yet fascinating woman like Paige Kassalen, who is an electrical engineer, listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2017. She was the youngest and only female engineer involved in the first ever solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse II. This plane was the first of its kind to complete a round-the-world flight without using fossil fuel. Check out for more female engineer role models.

Science week in schools

During this science week let’s find the engineers in your class. Everybody possesses some engineering skills. Whether that be constructing a tower uses toast fingers ready to take the plunge into a perfectly cooked dippy egg or it could be the art of what we call in our house corridor shoe Jenga. Every class contains the next generation of ideas. Problem solvers, life changers waiting to have the right understanding to equip them in turning imagination into a reality for society. James Dyson, engineer,

“Having an idea for doing something better and making it happen – even though it appears impossible[4]. That’s still my dream”.

Engineering gives us a wide variety of resources like running water, transport and the comfort of home appliances to make life easier. There is not one pre-set design of a person that is an engineer. The skills are diverse and all work towards a common goal of problem-solving.

Big Bang Science Fair

Last year, I attended the Big Bang Fair at Winchester Science Centre with a group of Key Stage 2 students. The air was filled with a constant buzz of excitement as we made our way around the stalls. Talented school children presented their STEM projects amongst the Science Centre’s latest interactive displays. We passed through an intestine, powered objects with our minds and stepped out on a running track to measure our speed and technique across the group as athletes. The activities were endless. Although there was a floor puzzle alongside one of the stalls, the event was screaming out for Kitcamp!

Budding engineers Toolkit

The modular nature of Kitcamp would have drawn in the hoards with hands-on imaginative problem-solving in teams or pairs. Not just groundwork but a structure to design and build and use. When I have observed children with Kitcamp the verbal and non-verbal communication demonstrated an extraordinary play experience. The children collaborated to form ideas and overcome problems just like engineers without realising the construction skills they were practising to form several ideas in a short space of time. In my experience as a class teacher, the imagination of children is so vast. What would seem incomprehensible to an adult because of years of logical thinking, to a child it is possible. As Audrey Hepburn said ‘Nothing is impossible, the words itself says ‘I’m possible’!’


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