We were delighted by the response we received to the competition which was exceedingly challenging – in terms of volume – but enjoyable to judge. In addition to our three worthy winners, a further 10 essays were commended highly by the judges.
Click on the links below to read the abstracts or download the full essays.
Sarah Dunn, University of Newcastle
Engineers are vital to the UK economy and also the prosperity and well-being of our modern communities, as they design, build and maintain our underpinning infrastructure systems. The 2013 Autumn Statement highlighted infrastructure spending as a priority for Government funding and acknowledged this spending as a means to stimulate economic growth. However, these funding plans cannot be implemented without skilled engineers, from a variety of specialism’s and backgrounds. Considering the importance of engineers to the UK economy it could be assumed that the UK has a healthy growing population of engineers. However, in his Review of Engineering Skills, Professor John Perkins states that many engineering companies may face recruitment difficulties unless more young people are attracted to the engineering profession.
In his report, Professor Perkins outlines possible methods to raise the profile of engineering and includes a ‘call to action’ to bring employers and educators together to shape the future of engineering in the UK. However, these methods and ‘call to action’ have three potentially fatal flaws. Firstly, there is a lack of awareness among the general public, including young people, of what actually constitutes an engineer, secondly there is a distinct lack of media visibility surrounding engineering and finally there is a potential shortcoming in the current education system which could halt the ambition of aspiring engineers. Unless these shortcomings are addressed Professor Perkins’ ‘call to action’ is unlikely to have a significant impact to the future of engineering in the UK.
Ross Harnden, University of Glasgow
Engineering plays a large role in the UK economy, accounting for around a quarter of the county’s turnover in all sectors. Part of the government’s strategy to strengthen the economy is to increase the number of people choosing to study engineering at university. The reported number of graduates in 2013 has fallen well short of the government’s target, and it is proposed that a poor understanding of engineering in secondary schools is a possible reason for this. It is suggested that engineering should be integrated more comprehensively into the school curriculum to encourage people into engineering from a young age.
It is also recognised that private sector funding for research and development (R&D) has been declining in the UK. This is attributed to a market-centred economy in which businesses are driven to invest only in projects that deliver quick returns, as well as mid-sized businesses being unable to finance their own research infrastructure. It is suggested that an increased partnership between industry and academia could solve this issue, but that both sides need to make changes for this to work. Those in academia need to make their ideas more accessible to industry, while those in industry need to be prepared to wait longer for financial return.
Finally, it is proposed that more engineering innovations in the UK would inspire more people into the sector, helping to sustain economic growth.
Richard Hodgkinson, University of Sheffield
Engineering is key to the development of the economy. Technology is key to engineering. Innovation is key to the evolution of technology. This essay highlights the nature of technology. An aspect of the use of technology in current industries is highlighted, together with the mechanism behind the innovation required for future ones.
Education is key to providing components for innovation. Consideration is presented as to how innovation could be improved. Education, however, forms part of the story. Innovation relies on more than just academic material. More intangible aspects such as practical skills and creativity are key – To both innovation and the engineering sector – And play an important part in the perception of engineering in the public domain.
Sivaloganathan Kumaran, Durham University
Today, when one compares the prevailing perception of British engineering to the present day state of the United Kingdom’s economy, he or she cannot help but notice some stark similarities. Once a leading creative force and major player, internationally renowned for its wealth, innovation and coveted vision, the United Kingdom’s image now risks settling for an early retirement. A backseat if you will, that is linked to a lingering idea that engineering advancement and economic growth are disassociated, superfluous to one another or even mutually exclusive. This article seeks to dispel such ideas by highlighting the various ways in which engineering does contribute to the economy; examining as well the influence and potential held by higher education in re-glorifying such contributions, indispensable for sustainable and competitive economic growth.
Victoria Ngow, University of Sheffield
The traditional engineering scene focuses on the technical development of products and services. These products and services are later taken on by non-engineers to sell to users. In this essay, I explore how these engineers can take on both roles, or integrate the process of making and selling at earlier stages. This integration between business and engineering is done by creating new roles for engineers. This development would demand “soft” skills from engineers and an increased collaboration with non-engineers in a fruitful environment. Universities play a role in preparing graduates for this fresh scene. From the perspective of a university student, I call for continued engagement with industries, relevant messages to attract graduates into engineering careers and the introduction of the maker culture.
Melissa Oum, University of Leeds
Engineers contribute to the Economy of the UK but more contribution is needed as the country is finding its way out of recession. This translates by an increasing demand of supply of qualified engineers, which can only be achieved if the education system forming engineers is profoundly revisited.
Ethan Simpson, University of Glasgow
Handing Down the Jump-Leads: an essay on inspiring a younger generation of Great British engineers, and the economic benefits that follow
Engineering in the United Kingdom has lost its sex appeal…
This essay examines the important of engineering to the economy of the United Kingdom historically – from the start of the Industrial Revolution until the 20th century – and the declining role it has played in the last few decades. It argues that the strength of the engineering sector in Great Britain is one of the dominating factors in the strength of the UK economy.
The essay then goes on to discuss where exactly resources should be invested so as to maximise the ‘stake’ of engineering in the British economy. The relative merits and dangers of investment in the “targeted research” conducted by graduates and companies are discussed, and the declining reputation of the term “engineer”, relative to other countries in Europe, is also considered. A solution to Britain’s engineering problem is proposed: an alternative strategy involving investment the younger generation of potential engineers – specifically children of primary school age. This point is expounded upon with consideration of the role of Higher Educational Institutes – Universities, Work Placements and Graduate Schemes – in helping promote and inspire engineering as a career path to a younger generation. The issue of graduates leaving the engineering sector upon completion of their degree is also considered in part; some strategies universities must employ to maintain students’ interest throughout their degrees are touched upon.
Ryan Taylor, University of Newcastle
The UK Government has placed focus on the engineering industry as part of their plan for sustainable long-term economic growth. The engineering industry already contributes significantly to the UK economy and there is potential for further growth. If the UK is to become a world leading economy it must ensure a long-term supply of quality engineers in the workforce. The demand for individuals with engineering skills is already vastly greater than the current supply, burdened by barriers relating to the misconceptions of engineering, a lack of gender diversity and engagement in engineering within the education system. There is a role for the Government, industry, professional institutions and higher education to play in addressing these issues. Young children need to be inspired by engineering, which can be achieved through introducing the subject into the education system coupled with access to a supported information resource and encouraging engineers into the teaching profession. While increasing the supply of engineers will be beneficial to economic growth they must also be fit for purpose. University education is still considered the gateway to the industry. The relationship between Universities and the industry is essential to directly influence the curriculum and provide industrial experience for academic staff and students, to produce world class graduates to out-compete and out-smart the rest of the world.
Rosemary Wainwright, Loughborough University
Though declarations of the demise of UK manufacturing and engineering are premature, universities and industry must join forces to strengthen the pipeline of talent, capitalise on the potential of the innovations we already have, and find ways to continue to generate new technologies, products and solutions.
The communication and clarity of expectations from industry are vital in ensuring the encouragement of the next generation of engineers to stem the skills gap. Strong collaboration between higher education and engineering companies is key to addressing these issues and developing the role of engineering in the UK economy.
In this report it is proposed that this approach must be applied early on and maintained throughout all stages of education, to ensure students have a positive and informed view of the engineering profession from an early age, thus allowing them to make suitable subject choices and reach their potential. In order to exploit our current portfolio of technical innovations, universities can help industry to translate them into commercially viable offerings, through education and advice. And finally we must continue to develop new innovations and technologies, with universities supporting through the selection and development of candidate students who are not only technologists, but who also have creative and entrepreneurial skills.
Joe Watson, University of Cambridge
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I hadn’t really heard of engineering. This essay is very much a personal piece. As a boy who liked making things, why was engineering not familiar to me? As a boy who did a Fine Art A Level as well as Further Maths, why do people not realise that the skills I developed in these classes are of equal importance? This essay is about the crucial role our children play in the future of our Engineering Sector, and how views of education and economics need to evolve if we are to face what lies ahead of us.