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Future engineers

John Laverty

Help inspire the engineers of tomorrow.

A recent Reform round table I attended provided a great opportunity to debate the skills challenge with skills and equalities minister Nick Boles.

Observing Chatham House rules, the event hosted 30 or so luminaries from government, education and business, hitting on themes which resonate with civil engineers. In particular, vocational routes from education to employment were seen as being absolutely vital.

The accountants set the scene, boasting their highest graduate intake since 1991, but also highlighting their struggle to fill vacancies, even during a time of significant youth unemployment. In response they have created more non-graduate pathways to reach out to a wider pool of talent. These included school visits, generating work experience placements and providing mentoring. In effect they are recruiting, not just promoting. One of their biggest challenges has been convincing parents, many of whom (wrongly) see A-levels and university as the only way to an interesting and worthwhile career.

students

As the ICE’s new head of education and inspiration, it struck me how we could replace the word “accountancy” with “engineering” and tell the same story. We know that vocational routes into engineering offer real opportunities for progression. I meet many senior engineers who have followed that pathway. Yet those personal stories are too often hidden and, as a result, many young men and women don’t see civil engineering as something they could do. We need to go into schools and colleges to encourage the next generation, and show them the full range of opportunities via vocational and academic routes.

ICE volunteers engaged with 35,000 school students last year - a fantastic effort but one that in reality connects with just a small fraction of young people in the UK. Clearly we can’t solve this alone and need to work with others. The ICE is already collaborating with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering & Technology, as part of the “EngTechNow” campaign to promote the EngineeringTechnician route to registration.

We are also working together under the banner of Tomorrow’s Engineers to reach out to school children and their parents. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, which celebrates the everyday engineering heroes that design, create and innovate to improve our lives, takes place next week. Tomorrow’s Engineers is also looking for closer coordination with engineering employers across the UK and I hope many
more young people will be inspired to take up engineering as a result.

If you get a call for your organisation to get involved, please do join in. We are stronger together, which is essential when competing with other professions, including accountancy, for talent.

When thinking of skills, we all have new things to learn wherever we are in our careers. Earlier this year I helped the ICE team up with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) to offer the ICE’s CEng and IEng qualified members a route to the Chartered Manager award, at discounted CMI membership rates. If enhanced leadership and management skills are part of your development action plan sign up for the next Chartered Manager webinar on 20 November at www.ice.org.uk/cmgr

  • John Laverty, is ICE head of education and inspiration

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