An ambitious campaign to encourage more talented young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering has been launched.

Leading figures in Industry and Higher Education launched Talent 2030 on Tuesday 25 October, led by former NUS President, Aaron Porter.

To mark the start of the campaign, the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) has published a report, Great Expectations, which finds that building a strong manufacturing and engineering base is vital to the UK’s economic recovery. But it warns that the country is failing to harness the whole of its talent base and is at risk of losing its competitive edge.

The first wave of the campaign will focus on attracting more girls to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing when making their subject choices. Fewer than one in ten engineering professionals are women and this is the lowest proportion across the EU. Talent 2030 warns that so few women in these industries means that that the UK is at risking of letting half its talent pool go to waste.

The taskforce behind the report, led by Richard Greenhalgh (former Chairman of Unilever UK) and Nigel Thrift (Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick), commissioned an exclusive survey of undergraduate girls in the penultimate year of their courses who all achieved A grades in GCSE maths, physics and chemistry.

It reveals that:

  • Fewer than a third of female undergraduates studying STEM subjects wish to pursue a career in the engineering and manufacturing sector
  • Careers advice in school is lacking, with 9 in 10 saying they cannot remember receiving any career advice at all about manufacturing and engineering
  • 2 in 5 of the girls said they could be persuaded to take up a career in manufacturing and engineering, but were now not doing the right degrees
  • The sector is seen as dominated by men and is lacking in excitement

The report proposes that:

  • Schools and colleges set a target for the number of girls achieving A level physics at grade B or above
  • The Government includes the number of girls passing A level physics at grade B and above in school and college league tables
  • Universities promote placements and internships in all manufacturing and engineering courses
  • Business commits to supporting a major manufacturing and engineering mentoring scheme, particularly aimed at girls before they reach 14
  • Design and Technology is made more academically rigorous and should be included in the English Baccalaureate

Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: "The Great Expectations report demonstrates that the UK will only continue to be in the business of producing high added value goods and services if we start planning now. Currently we struggle to recruit women into engineering and this is denying us the diverse perspectives that produce genuinely fresh thinking. We need new ways of attracting the best talent into engineering - both women and men. We also need to accelerate our productive industries if we are to keep up with rising international competition. The right talents and skills are the keys to this and we are reminded by the report that the talented engineers of 2030 are being born right now, so time is of the essence."

Jane Wernick FREng, who worked on the London Eye and is a supporter of the campaign said: “If our manufacturing and engineering industries are to thrive we need to attract the very best people. It’s a great pity that we have so few women engineers. It means we are missing out on the talents of half the population. We need to make young people aware of how rewarding and varied a career in engineering can be. I think it is one of the most creative fields to be engaged in. Our work touches people’s lives at almost every level, and it’s great to have a job where you actually contribute to making things. In particular, with the challenges of global warming engineers have a huge contribution to make to a greener economy.

“I hope this campaign will trigger greater engagement between industry and schools, so that young people have an opportunity to discover how exciting careers in engineering and manufacturing can be.”

Aaron Porter, Director of the Talent 2030 Campaign, said: “The vital subject choices made by thirteen year olds have enormous consequences for their future career and also the UK economy. Our campaign will encourage young people to look at the compelling evidence which shows that not only can jobs in manufacturing and engineering make a huge contribution to our society, but they also deliver a bigger earnings premium than many other careers. By sharing the findings of our research we hope to inspire more young people to seriously consider careers in manufacturing and engineering, and opt for subjects that will enable them to do this like physics and maths. Talent 2030 will highlight how rewarding careers in engineering and manufacturing can be. We will work with young people, schools, universities and industry to ensure we harness the talent we need to create the very best leaders of the future.”

Visit the Talent 2030 website:

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering

    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.

For more information please contact

Ed Holmes on 0207 766 0655