The Institution is seeking to raise awareness of the social value of engineering, delay when subject choices are made and highlight the role of creativity. The proposals, which aim to inspire more school students to follow a career in the sector, feed into the Institution’s approach and are summarised in its Education Flame diagram.
The Institution recognises that targeted engagement with different groups – from young people, to careers advisers, employers and government – is needed in order to break down barriers to engineering.
Peter Finegold, the Institution’s Head of Education and Skills, said that it is time to provoke a debate about the role of school education in contributing to the provision of engineering skills.
Many schemes aimed at addressing the engineering skills gap have not reached the heart of the problem. Tackling it, he said, required leadership to bring about significant changes to the way engineering is taught, and should now impact on education policy.
Peter said: “School teachers are increasingly a major source of careers advice, so they need to be better supported to talk about the engineering sector that few have experienced.
"Equally, it really is time to consider why young people, especially in England, are forced to make career-limiting study choices so early.”
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Partnerships and schemes
Education-linked schemes, partnership organisations and Institution policy statements that have supported the Institution’s work to inspire and inform society about engineering form the backbone of routes of action are encapsulated in the Flame.
The Institution is building on acclaimed research, such as the Five Tribes study of young people’s perceptions of STEM subjects; and the positive experience of STEM teachers who have taken up placements with engineering and manufacturing companies, known as the Teacher Industrial Partners’ Scheme (TIPS). It is also reiterating its call for more members to volunteer, and take their passion for engineering into schools.
At a recent forum jointly held by the Institution and the Royal Academy of Engineering, leading thinkers were invited to propose innovative ways to ‘open the door’ to engineering within schools and the education system.
This international seminar, entitled Big Ideas in Engineering Education, strongly challenged the UK’s present approach and called for a radical reappraisal – at policy level – of scientific content, hands-on learning and access to information in education. The findings will form part of a new Institution report.
Stephen Tetlow, the Institution’s CEO, is backing this full-scale approach, the progressive success of which will require the input of grassroots members as much as buy-in and action from education policy-makers in government.
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