Perkins review of engineering skills
Professor John Perkins’ Review of engineering skills was published in November 2013. It was prepared by Professor John Perkins, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The review suggests that despite the UK’s enviable track record in engineering, there is now a shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals and graduates and argues that increasing the number of engineers would help the UK economy. It highlights the increasing need for engineers as a result of growth and rebalancing of the economy and identifies structural and behavioural barriers to the ‘talent pipeline’.
In particular the review focusses on:
- The poor perception people have of the engineering profession.
- The low percentage of female engineering professionals compared to other EU countries.
- The inflexible and unresponsive education system.
- Poor retention of trained engineers.
- The need for engagement of the industry.
Perkins suggests that, “Under any plausible scenario for our future growth, new technology is likely to drive greater demand for higher, technical skills.”
He goes on to write, “If we are going to secure the flow of talent into engineering, we need to start at the very beginning. We need young people who are technically and academically competent, but who are also inspired by the possibilities of engineering. Starting to inspire people at 16 years old is too late; choices are made, and options are closed off well before then. So we need purposeful and effective early intervention to enthuse tomorrow’s engineers.”
The review includes 22 recommendations, 15 pf which require engagement of industry, the profession and the education sector:
 Short term
- 1. Government should invite employers to put forward innovative proposals to develop engineering skills in sectors suffering acute skills shortages.
- 2. Government should support the Daphne Jackson Trust to extend and develop their fellowship model to support people returning to professional engineering after a career break.
- 3. The engineering community, including all the professional engineering institutions, should join in partnership with Tomorrow’s Engineers, to agree effective core messages about engineering and cooperate to disseminate these messages to young people.
- 4. Government should provide seed funding to develop nationwide roll out of the Tomorrow’s Engineers employer engagement programme and help schools and colleges connect with employers.
- 5. High profile campaign reaching out to young people, particularly girls aged 11-14 years, with inspirational messages about engineering and diverse role models, to inspire them to become “Tomorrow’s Engineers”. The engineering community should take this forward as an annual event.
 Academic Foundations
- 6. Government should ensure that the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and the Institute of Physics are fully engaged during consultation on revisions to A-level physics to ensure that the new A-levels will provide a sound foundation to progress to degree-level study in engineering.
- 7. Government should continue to support schools to increase progression to A-level physics, especially among female students.
- 8. Government should focus on teacher recruitment to shortage subjects and also promote physics with maths to schools involved in teacher training.
- 9. The engineering community should provide continuing professional development for teachers, giving them experience of working in industry to put their academic teaching in practical context and enabling them to inspire and inform their students about engineering.
 Vocational Education
- 10. The engineering community should work with the Government to develop and promote new Level 2 and 3 qualifications that will create high quality vocational routes for 16-19 year olds to enter engineering careers.
- 11. The engineering community should work with employers to encourage and support provision of work experience for post-16 students studying in colleges and schools.
- 12. The engineering community, especially employers, should work with Government to develop additional Trailblazer Apprenticeships in engineering.
- 13. Government should develop plans to boost diversity of engineering apprentices, building on the pilots and research commissioned by the Skills Funding Agency.
- 14. Government should build on the UTC experience and seek to develop elite vocational provision for adults so that people have the opportunity to learn the latest techniques and approaches while learning in a vocational setting.
- 15. Engineering employers should encourage their staff to share their skills and knowledge, for example by participating in the Education and Teaching Foundation’s Teach Too scheme.
- 16. Government and the FE sector should encourage the application of learning technologies to extract maximum value from expert lecturers and the materials they produce, for example through Teach Too.
 Higher education
- 17. Government should review funding arrangements for engineering degree courses to ensure that it is financially sustainable for HE institutions to deliver high quality engineering programmes.
- 18. Government should ensure that the £200 million teaching capital fund encourages diversity by seeking evidence of commitment (e.g. through Athena SWAN registration) as a prerequisite for receiving funding.
- 19. HE institutions should work with Government and commercial banks to ensure their students are aware of Professional Career Development Loans.
- 20. The engineering community should develop concerted engagement with university students, including work placements to raise the profile of engineering careers and ensure that students on every campus are aware of the full range of diverse opportunities with engineering employers, large and small.
- 21. Engineering employers should explore the potential for developing cooperative cross-sector schemes to support postgraduate students.
- 22. Government, through EPSRC, should seek further evidence of unsatisfied demand for engineers trained to doctoral level, and review arrangements for the support of PhD students in the light of their findings.
NB The review coincided with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week between 4 and 8 November 2013, during which a survey was undertaken: Attitudes to engineering: before and after Tomorrow's Engineers Week 2013.
 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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