Today Sir James Dyson announced that he is to open his own institute to train engineers stating that the UK needs another million engineers in software, hardware and electronics by 2020 if UK companies are to remain competitive.
The institute, based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire will open in the Autumn of 2017 with an initial intake of 25 students and will offer a four year engineering degree in partnership with the University of Warwick. Students will be paid a salary while studying and will not pay tuition fees, but most importantly in the world of engineering, students will work on live projects alongside mentors and research staff allowing them to get hands on, real life experience.
The Dyson Institute of Technology will be another initiative that Sir James Dyson has founded to inspire and educate the engineers of the future. The James Dyson Foundation already has a number of initiatives in place to interest, challenge, educate and change the perceptions of children and young adults when it comes to engineering as a career path.
It’s no secret that there’s been major worry in recent years about the next generation of UK engineers. It’s not only the practical engineering skills that are reported to be lacking in our graduates and school leavers, but also the general skills needed to survive and thrive in a work environment.
This time last year businesses were reportedly more worried about the skills gap than they were about the possibility of the UK leaving Europe. The report produced by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants stated that UK school leavers were the worst in Europe for essential skills and when combined with the 2015 Engineering UK report that engineering still had an annual shortfall of 55,000 people it doesn’t bode well for UK engineering and manufacturing in the future. Those concerns have continued to be reported throughout this year.
Despite the currently uncertainty about Europe and Brexit the manufacturing sector is managing to remain robust, although things may well change further down the line. Currently firms bolster their lack of engineering expertise in house by employing engineers from other countries which may well not be as straightforward in the future. This makes it even more important that the UK works to improve the skills of people leaving education, attract people into engineering and also ensure that they receive adequate training and practical experience so that they are equipped to slot into the work force.
The Institute of Mechanical Engineers produced a document which focussed on the issues and possible solutions. It is clear that there is no one single element that can solve the problem. Industry, government and education providers all need to work together if we are to ensure that we maintain and increase the supply of UK engineers into the future.
Education and apprenticeship initiatives have been put into place and last year the Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre was opened in Coventry with the aim of supporting over 1000 trainees. However, it will be some years before any of these initiatives can be deemed a success or not. One thing is certain, schools, colleges, universities, government and industry need to continue to work together on strategies if the UK skills gap is to be reduced.