Employers, educators, the engineering profession and government must put concerted efforts into fixing the leakage of engineering expertise, says a new report.

Professor John Perkins’  Review of Engineering Skills  (published today) highlights how and where the UK’s engineering talents get lost from primary school through to employment and sends out a call to action to all stakeholders involved in encouraging, employing and training engineers.

In his report, Professor Perkins, a Fellow of the Academy and the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, outlines short and long term actions to reverse a trend that threatens to leave the country without skilled engineers.

The report considers every phase in the engineering talent pipeline, with 21 recommendations addressing how to inspire the very young, increase teaching excellence in key subjects, widen vocational pathways to engineering careers and ensure sufficient resources are available for universities to teach engineers effectively.

It aims to cut a clear path into the future for government, educators, employers and engineering institutions to steer the UK away from the predicted skills shortage.

Sir John Parker, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“Professor Perkins puts it perfectly. The economy would benefit from a substantial increase in the supply of engineers. Production and construction in the UK each need to grow by a further 12% to return to pre-2008 levels and we are counting on the engineers already in the workforce to make that happen. But that workforce must be strengthened further if we are to achieve a new and sustainable UK economy, rebalanced more in favour of export-led manufacturing and the provision of vital infrastructure. We need the imaginations of a new generation of engineers, drawing on all sectors of society – most notably women, to achieve that vital goal”.

As stated in the report, every child in primary school has the potential to be an engineer or technician but a lack of clear information on careers prospects, inspirational role models and, most importantly, subject choices, mean that too few take up engineering from an early age, especially girls.”

Professor Sir William Wakeham, Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“Professor Perkins’ detailed analysis of the academic foundations required by engineers and technicians cuts to the heart of the issue. Put plainly, mathematics and physics underpin engineering practice and far too many young people, particularly young women, give these subjects up at the age of 16. The engineering and physics communities are working to solve this problem, with support from government, and expect this to yield more engineering undergraduates. Therefore the £200m capital fund needs to prioritise projects that boost the capacity for the education of more engineers as well as improving teaching effectiveness”.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has been working to improve and promote engineering education both academic and vocational through a number of schemes, research and the involvement in developing new engineering qualifications.

Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:

“The engineering profession has a long history of engagement with the education system. Professor Perkins is right. The profession must get squarely behind the Tomorrow’s Engineers initiative to improve coordination of employers’ engagement with schools. There is also a once in a generation opportunity for the engineering profession to shape the vocational pathways to engineering careers, building on the reforms to apprenticeship in particular. This will require coordination and significant resources but is potentially one of the most transformative outcomes from the Perkins’ Review.”

Notes for editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.

    We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; Foster better education and skills; Lead the profession; Promote engineering at the heart of society.

For more information please contact

Giorgio De Faveri at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0664; email: Giorgio De Faveri