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University of Warwick says half our engineers could go missing and commits to help find them

The University of Warwick is to embark on a programme to help prevent half the UK’s prospective engineers from going missing and is to mount a campaign, funded by the National HE Stem programme, to encourage students, particularly bright young girls, to become engineers and scientists.

The decision to mount this campaign follows a report published this week by the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) which finds that building a strong manufacturing and engineering base will be vital to the UK’s economic recovery. The report warns that the country is failing to harness the whole of its talent base and is at risk of losing its competitive edge. With the launch of ‘Great Expectations’ and the Talent 2030 campaign activity, the University of Warwick programme will encourage more young people (particularly girls) to consider careers in manufacturing and engineering.

The first wave of the Talent 2030 campaign will therefore focus on attracting more girls, to get them to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing when making their subject choices. Fewer than one in ten engineering professionals is female - the lowest proportion across the EU.

Professor Nigel Thrift (Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick) said:

“If the country is to emerge from the recession and remain internationally competitive, we have to maximise our talent base. We need to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing. If we continue to fail to make use of the talent of more than half the population we will fall behind our international competitors.”

“This campaign will work to address young people’s perceptions of careers in industry. Not only can they be financially rewarding, but they are also key to tackling the environmental challenges we face.”

The campaign will reach out to school pupils particularly bright 13 year olds in year 9, with a concentration on girls and schools in less advantaged areas.

The taskforce behind the report, led by Richard Greenhalgh (former Chairman of Unilever UK) and Professor 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:

  • Less 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 of these students 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, dull, and lacking in excitement.

The report proposes that:

  • Schools and colleges set a target for the number of girls achieving A levels 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.

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.”

Richard Greenhalgh (former Chairman of Unilever UK) co-chair of the Talent 2030 Taskforce, said:

“A strong manufacturing and engineering base is vital to our economic recovery. If the UK is to compete internationally we have to create an environment in which talented young people are able to flourish in engineering.

“With the university entrants of 2030 about to be born, the need to address the flaws in our education system and encourage more girls to pursue careers in these sectors is particularly urgent.

Jane Wernick, a leading structural engineer, who worked on the London Eye, is a supporter of the campaign and says:

“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.”

Sponsors The sponsors of the Great Expectations report are BAE Systems, National Grid, BG Group and EADs.

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick
Tel: 024 76 523708 or mobile 07767 655860 p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

PR152 25th October 2011