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Government urged to tackle ‘shocking’ skills shortage by adding engineering to curriculum

Professional Engineering

'We need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum' (Credit: Shutterstock)
'We need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum' (Credit: Shutterstock)

Over 150 engineering leaders and well-known personalities have urged the government to tackle the UK’s skills shortage by embedding engineering into the national curriculum.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) new Engineering Kids’ Futures report – including signatories such as Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE,, and representatives from Rolls-Royce, Vodafone and the MOD – includes a series of recommendations for the government to add engineering and technology to primary and secondary school learning.

There is an estimated shortfall of over 173,000 workers in STEM sectors, the IET said – an average of 10 unfilled roles per business in the UK, costing the economy a “shocking” £1.5bn each year. 49% of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties recruiting workers with the skills they need.

“As we know, subjects like science and maths are eagerly taught in schools, but connecting them to engineering – the link between these subjects, their purpose and application to the world in which we live – is not currently being made clear,” said David Lakin, IET head of education.

“We need to ensure there are clearer learning outcomes for these subjects. Put simply, we need to embed engineering into the mainstream curriculum.”

One way to do this would involve reviewing the current design and technology (D&T) curriculum, which the IET described as a “key engineering and technology gateway subject”.

Teacher training could also boost understanding and confidence about talking about engineering in the classroom, the institution said.

“There are many options, and the engineering community is ready to help develop and implement these to support government in implementing these recommendations,” said Lakin. “Our aim to significantly increase the number of quality engineers and technicians entering the workforce can only be achieved by letting young people see the opportunities that a career in the engineering sector presents.”

The report recommendations include:

  • A review of the English school curriculum to embed the teaching of engineering, at both primary and secondary levels
  • A review of the D&T curriculum at secondary level, to refocus it as an ‘engineering and design’ subject
  • A review of school accountability measures (Progress 7 and Attainment 8) to move D&T into the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) suite of subjects
  • Engineering training for teachers – the government to endorse, promote, signpost and support an engineering package of training aligned with the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) core content framework
  • A review of ITT bursaries and scholarships to increase their value and availability.

The report was supported by new IET research, which showed that 70% of parents believe primary and secondary education does not teach children about the ‘real life’ application of the subjects they learn about.

The work also found that more than half of parents (55%) agree that without formal teaching in engineering and technology, their children will not be able to make informed career choices. 69% of parents said engineering and technology must be introduced to primary school children, while almost half of parents (47%) agreed that engineering and technology should be a compulsory core subject at GCSE.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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