The engineering profession has undergone profound changes over the past 15 years and is now making an even greater contribution to the economy and society than could have been anticipated, according to a new report published today by Engineering the Future, an alliance of leading engineering organisations.

Engineering is no longer just about hard hats and hi-visibility vests, yet the way it is portrayed in society and seen by policymakers has not kept up with this evolution, says The Universe of Engineering. The report shows how engineering skills are now needed in an increasingly diverse range of fields including brain imaging, airport security, drug delivery systems, materials science and prosthetic limbs.

In its ‘call to action,’ The Universe of Engineering urges the professional engineering institutions (PEIs) to adapt so that they better represent and develop engineers involved in such exciting and rapidly developing fields, and use this as a springboard to attract more people into the profession.

The UK is facing an unprecedented skills crisis, says the report. Analysis by the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests the UK will need over a million new engineers and technicians by 2020 and EngineeringUK research shows this will require a doubling of the number of annual engineering graduates and apprentices. This will require a step change in the effort to attract young people into the engineering and it must start with coordinated, inspiring messaging to the public that truly captures the real nature and breadth of engineering in the 21st century.

Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng, Chair of the working group that produced the report, says: “As engineers underpin an increasing number of different parts of the economy and society, the engineering community and professional engineering institutions must adapt to represent and support those in both traditional and non-traditional engineering roles.

“The engineering profession now has a critical opportunity to identify and put into place a framework for the new model of engineering, with its increasing inter-disciplinarity and pervasive reach.”

The report makes eight key recommendations to PEIs and policymakers to maintain excellence in the profession:

  • develop a dynamic set of images and messaging to inspire and excite;
  • cast the net wider in terms to bring people into the profession and develop them at all levels from apprentice to chartered;
  • work with government to develop employment statistics and measures of economic activity that reflect more properly the role of engineering;
  • work with government to drive improvement in careers guidance;
  • improve opportunities in engineering for women and those from underrepresented social and ethnic groups;
  • professional engineering institutions (PEIs) should prepare for the impending increases in apprenticeships and vocational training routes into engineering by providing opportunities for registration and progression;
  • PEIs should work with the FE and HE sectors to ensure that industrially experienced engineers provide contextualised learning;
  • government departments should recognise the value that can be gained from greater use of the independent engineering advice from the professional engineering community. As a major employer, government should also lead by example in ensuring the engineers it employs are registered.

Notes for Editors

  1. The report is available on the Publications section of the Academy's Website:
    The Universe of Engineering report (1.79 MB)
  1. The steering group responsible for the development of the report were:
  • Chair:         Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng            Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Members:   
    Professor Liz Bacon            Vice President, BCS the Chartered Institute for IT
    Professor Jon Binner            President, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
    Barry Brooks                President, Institution of Engineering and Technology
    Professor Barry Clarke            President, Institution of Civil Engineers
    Dr Paul Golby CBE FREng            Chairman, EngineeringUK
    Dr David Grant CBE FREng        Royal Academy of Engineering
    Rear Admiral Nigel Guild CB FREng    Chairman, Engineering Council    
    Judith Hackitt CBE FREng        Immediate Past President, Institution of Chemical Engineers
    Professor Tim Ibell FIStructE FREng    Senior Vice President, Institution of Structural Engineers
    Patrick Kniveton            President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  1. Engineering the Future (EtF) is a broad alliance of the engineering institutions and bodies which represent the UK's 450,000 professional engineers. We provide independent expert advice and promote understanding of the contribution that engineering makes to the economy, society and to the development and delivery of national policy. The leadership of Engineering the Future is drawn from the following institutions: The Engineering Council; Engineering UK; The Institution of Chemical Engineers; The Institution of Civil Engineers; The Institution of Engineering and Technology; Institution of Structural Engineers, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers; The Institute of Physics; The Royal Academy of Engineering.
  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
T: 020 7766 0655
E: Giorgio De Faveri


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