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6 February, 2023

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Celebrities back drive to tackle £1.5bn skills shortage

07 December, 2022

More than 150 engineering leaders and celebrities – including Carol Vorderman and will.i.am – have endorsed a report calling on the Government to help tackle the UK’s engineering skills shortage by embedding engineering into primary and secondary school curriculums. They have written an open letter to the Prime Minster saying that the Government needs “to invest in our children, who will be our engineering innovators of the future”.

The call is backed up by report called Engineering Kids’ Futures (EKF) which has been led by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Its recommendations include:
• A review of the Design & Technology (D&T) Curriculum at secondary level to refocus it as an “engineering and design” subject, with a possible rebranding of the subject accordingly.
• A review of school accountability measures (Progress 7 and Attainment 8) to move D&T into the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) suite of subjects.
• A call for the Government to endorse, promote, signpost and support an package of engineering training for teachers aligned with the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework.
• A review of Government-funded ITT bursaries and scholarships in engineering to increase their value and availability.

The report is supported by new IET research which shows:
• 70% of parents believe primary and secondary education doesn’t teach children about the real-life application of the subjects they are taught;
• more than half of parents (55%) agree that without formal teaching in engineering and technology, their children won’t be able to make informed career choices;
• 69% say it is essential that primary school children are exposed to engineering and technology to spark an interest in these fields;
• Almost half (47%) feel that engineering and technology should be a compulsory core subject at GCSE;
• 60% of parents say that schools don't do enough to encourage young girls to consider engineering and technology career options; and
• more than half of parents (55%) rely solely on the school curriculum to teach their children about engineering and technology, with 61% admitting they would struggle to explain to their children which careers require engineering and technology qualifications.

More than half of parents (53%) think that there is too much emphasis on science, maths and English in the current curriculum.

There is currently a shortage of more than 173,000 workers in the UK STEM sector – an average of ten unfilled roles per UK business, costing the economy an estimated £1.5bn per annum. Almost half (49%) of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties in finding suitably skilled personnel

“Subjects like 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,” warns David Lakin, the IET’s Head of Education, Safeguarding & Education Policy. “We need to ensure there are clearer learning outcomes for these subjects.

The new report argues that children need to be introduced to engineering and science topics at an early age

“Put simply, we need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum. One way we can do this is by reviewing the current D&T curriculum, which is a key engineering and technology gateway subject, and give it more importance in the EBacc 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.

“There are many options, and the engineering community is ready to help develop and implement these to support government in implementing these recommendations,” Lakin adds. “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.”

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