If our manufacturing and engineering industries are to thrive we need to attract the very best people. That's why I was keen to support the Talent 2030 campaign.
We need to address young people's perception of these industries and make sure that they are aware of how rewarding a career that makes use of their knowledge of subjects like maths and physics can be. There is real satisfaction to be had in contributing to the design of things that make people's lives better and can contribute to the sustainability of the planet.
Unfortunately, if they don't hear about what an engineer can do they tend to drop those science subjects, and this limits their options. So we need schools and careers advisors to become more aware of the huge range of opportunities that engineering can provide. Better careers advice and mentoring schemes which get industry working together with schools can let young people find out more about some of the exciting job opportunities. Role models can help to inspire them.
Figures highlighted in the CIHE's Great Expectations report highlight that In 2007, fewer than one out of ten engineering professionals were women - the lowest proportion across the EU and far behind Bulgaria and Sweden, with 29% and 26% respectively. An exclusive survey of female undergraduates undertaken by the Talent 2030 campaign also revealed that many bright, young women view the engineering industry as dull and dominated by men. While they are certainly right about the latter point, my career as an engineer has been anything but dull.
As a structural engineer I have had the chance to work on some brilliant projects, such as the Millennium Wheel, the Xstrata Treetop walkway at Kew Gardens, and the Young Vic Theatre. I think that engineering is one of the most creative fields to be engaged in. Engineers use their academic knowledge to produce results which touch people's lives at every level. Having a job where you actually contribute to our environment at every level is hugely rewarding.
It really is a great pity that we have so few women engineers because of course it means we are missing out on the talents of half the population. I also believe that more diverse teams work better and achieve far more than teams in which everyone is the same. We need to spark ideas off each other, and push the boundaries.
I hope that the Talent 2030 campaign will also work to highlight the growth of green jobs in the engineering and manufacturing sector. With the challenges of global warming, engineers have a huge contribution to make to a more sustainable economy.