Promoting and developing engineering talent is more important than ever after two years of Covid-related disruption, said speakers at the Elevating Education launch event today (24 March), which highlighted the institution’s new online tools and encouraged engineers of all levels to share their vital problem-solving skills.
MP Amanda Solloway, IMechE chief executive Dr Alice Bunn, education and skills board chair Professor Helen James OBE, and education outreach & safeguarding lead Jelena Gacesa spoke at the event, and took part in a Q&A session titled “How can engineers respond to the global disruption of education?”
“Ensuring our education system – from nursery through to lifelong learning – develops STEM, and specifically engineering capital, surely has to be a priority for us all,” said Prof James.
“The need has never been greater as we come out of Covid, or at least learn to live with it. Life has not returned to normal – schools have reduced teacher capacity due to infections, pupils’ absenteeism remains high, pupils’ mental ill-health and behaviours are at challenging levels and exams are looming.”
Thankfully, the IMechE ambassador programme can help ensure the next generation of engineers are equipped with the right skills for their careers – and for wider society.
‘A positive influence for change’
The wealth of expertise amongst the institution’s 115,000 members is a “massive opportunity” to inspire the next generation and maximise the positive impact of engineers on society, said Dr Bunn. The IMechE already has 7,500 STEM ambassadors – nearly a third of the UK’s total number – but the new resources aim to attract ‘passionate and enthusiastic’ recruits and support them in their work.
The web pages include a library of STEM activities on topics ranging from water turbines to lunar rovers, which can be done at home or in schools with classes of 30 pupils. Members at all levels, ‘from affiliates to fellows’, can also access free toolkits with materials and lesson programmes after registering on the STEM ambassador page, the process for which is explained in a new video. Training webinars are provided, and ambassadors can even borrow 3D printers provided by IMechE partners.
The event, held in person and online from the institution’s headquarters in Birdcage Walk, Westminster, also highlighted the decision to make education one of four strategic priorities.
“We have the power to be a positive influence for change,” said Prof James. “We can encourage and support the take-up of apprenticeships, graduate employment and progression practices, and act as mentors and coaches to support engineers to be the very best of themselves possible.
“We also have the potential to provide work experience through our organisations, support GCSE engineering, the new T-Levels in engineering and manufacturing starting in September this year in England, BTEC qualifications in our devolved nations… and huge opportunities to engage with universities.”
A new generation of inspired, motivated engineers will be key to tackling major issues facing humanity, said Dr Bunn.
“We have to prepare for a whole set of challenges, engineering challenges, that are not yet known,” she said. “There will be challenges ahead in climate and sustainability, I think we can be sure there will be challenges ahead in healthcare and infectious disease control, and also in future transport.”
Former parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, Solloway summed up the aspirational and ambitious mentality that ambassadors should foster when she mentioned a note given by astronaut and STEM promoter Tim Peake to her granddaughter, saying simply “Aim high”. She said: “That is the gift that we should give to young people, to get them interested in this amazing, amazing profession.”
For more information and to sign up as an ambassador, visit the website at imeche.org/stemambassadors.
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