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Last edited 08 Feb 2021
Mixed news from the Perkins Review
|The new report praised campaigns such as Tomorrow's Engineers.|
Back in 2013, Professor John Perkins, then Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, published his report on the state of engineering education and training, and the skills shortage in the United Kingdom. Unusually for a report such as this, the Perkins Review has been cited and quoted ever since.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and John Perkins, with the support of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), gathered a group of us from the engineering community to produce Engineering skills for the future – the 2013 Perkins Review revisited, a unique opportunity to look at progress made on the original recommendations and maintain momentum.
Working through the summer and autumn to produce the drafts, the report was pulled together in December 2018 and launched at the House of Lords on January 30, 2019 with an upbeat address from Professor Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens.
Starting with the good news. The support given to the Tomorrow’s Engineers employer engagement programme, the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company connecting schools and colleges with employers, and the Royal Academy’s ‘This is Engineering’ campaign launched in 2018 (the ‘year of engineering’), have all maintained the focus on engineering skills.
Also, and almost simultaneously, the government has announced a measured and pragmatic strategy to recruit and retain teachers, addressing one of the review’s main recommendations to address the shortages of maths, physics and design technology subject specialists.
 The ‘mixed’ news
The picture for the further education and skills sector, which ICE, EEF (The manufacturers’ organisation) and CIPHE (Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering) drafted, has been more mixed.
There are welcome moves to develop a coherent and ambitious technical education offer through the new T-levels (The Construction: Design, Surveying and Planning route, encompassing civil engineering, starts in 2020 in England only).
However, there are concerns about whether the funding mechanism for post-16 education will be enough to pay for engineering programmes, and whether Wales and Northern Ireland will align with the emerging English system.
 Apprenticeship and post-16 academic recommendations
Although maths is now the most popular A-level subject, the numbers taking A-level maths and physics have plateaued, while the EBacc performance measure has resulted in far fewer students taking design and arts subjects at GCSE.
While speakers at the launch were optimistic and ready to push forward, it was impossible to ignore the shadow cast by Brexit.
With 124,000 engineers required every year to 2024, and construction reliant on EU workers, the need to push apprenticeships to grow our own workforce, and develop a pragmatic migration policy are vital. Thirty percent of civil engineering students graduating from UK universities are from overseas, for example, and represent a resource that should not be wasted.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Apprenticeships levy.
- Boardroom to building site skills gap survey.
- Building services engineer.
- Civil engineer.
- Construction industry reports.
- Diversity in the construction industry.
- Institution of Civil Engineers.
- Institution of Structural Engineers.
- Government construction strategy.
- National Infrastructure Plan for Skills.
- Project engineer.
- Protection for apprenticeships.
- Recruiting and retaining talent in the construction industry.
- Skills to build.
- Structural engineer.
- Tackling the construction skills shortage.
 External references
- Professor John Perkins’ Review of engineering skills.
- Attitudes to engineering: before and after Tomorrow's Engineers Week 2013.
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