The importance of recognising and encouraging our aspiring young engineers is indisputable and the Royal Academy of Engineering has acknowledged the cream of engineering undergraduates with prestigious Engineering Leadership Awards.

Competition is tough, and of 118 applicants, only 25 were successful. The successful students can use their award for personal skills development through, for example, vacation employment, entrepreneurial research activities, structured visits to UK/foreign companies or an exchange period with an overseas university.

One student however stands out even among these talented young engineers, UMIST’s Robert Wilde.

Throughout his life Robert, now a second year undergraduate, has taken part in every one of the schemes that make up the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Best programme.

Best is the Academy’s continuum initiative in engineering education. Best, which stands for ’Better engineering students today, Building enterprise success tomorrow’, encompasses a range of educational opportunities created to attract, retain and develop outstanding young engineers from the age of 8 upwards. More than 5,500 young people take part in the programme every year, which will provide UK industry with the seed corn for its engineering future.

To help choose his A level subjects, Robert undertook the Smallpeice Trust’s Engineering Management Scheme and hasn’t looked back since, embarking on a further five Best schemes culminating in his Engineering Leadership Award.

Participation in the schemes meant that while still at school, Robert made an electronic transmitter and a huge air balloon and had the opportunity to work with a local company re-designing a plastic extrusion cutter.

The Engineering Leadership Awards provide incentive and assistance for some of the most exceptional engineering undergraduates in British universities. Worth up to £7500, they enable students to experience training that would otherwise not have been available to them, enabling them to undertake an accelerated personal development programme.

The scheme benefits both companies and students alike.

Companies get access to some of the most talented students in the country, the opportunity to forge relationships with award holders and opportunities for publicity through news releases and features.

Students not only receive cash for three years to cover their educational expenses and their professional development, but they also have access to their own personal mentor and gain high quality experience leading to career opportunities.

Ultimately though, through this unique collaboration scheme between students and industry, it is UK engineering which wins.

Robert says,

“The engineering schemes are really useful to give you a taste of Engineering. It’s a big decision choosing which career to follow. Also, because many people choose engineering it’s important to get as much and as wide an experience as possible so you can decide which field to specialize in.

“Having hands on courses is the best way gain experience, because at the end of the day that’s what good engineering is all about. It is great doing the courses at universities because when you come to choose a university, you have a wider appreciation of what to expect from different university courses.

“The Engineering Leadership Award is by far the best. Trying to get a summer placement is difficult for undergraduates with no sponsorship. Only large companies are prepared to take on undergraduates for summer placements as they tend to have very little experience and, furthermore, they pay very little, so debt ridden students have to be strong willed to take on an industrial placement when they could earn more money with a standard bar job. The funding provided by the Engineering Leadership Award will open so many doors for my colleagues and myself, especially for overseas placements.“

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. Best is The Royal Academy of Engineering’s central initiative in engineering education. Best, which stands for ’Better Engineering Students Today, Building Enterprise Success Tomorrow’, encompasses a range of educational opportunities created to attract, retain and develop outstanding young engineers. More than 4,500 young people take part in the programme every year, which will provide UK industry with the seed corn for its engineering future.

    The Academy is committed to total quality throughout the Best programme. It offers employers the opportunity to identify and recruit the most talented young people wishing to enter, or who are already part of, the engineering profession, and to import their skills and expertise. Consequently the Best programme enjoys the participation of a broad cross-section of industry across its component schemes.
  3. The objective of the Engineering Leadership Awards is to allow outstandingly able engineering undergraduates, with marked leadership potential, to undertake an accelerated personal development programme. They are afforded the opportunity to acquire and enhance the necessary skills required to fulfil their potential, in preparation for fast track executive careers in engineering industry.

For more information please contact

Dr Claire McLoughlin at the Royal Academy of Engineering