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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Why and how we must secure tomorrow’s engineers for a greener future


4 min read

Head and shoulders photo of Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK Photo: EngineeringUK
Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, a charitable organisation that promotes education and engagement in engineering and technology

Photo: EngineeringUK

Critical roles in engineering and technology still do not attract enough people to fill them. If the UK is to meet its net zero targets there needs to be significant growth in engineers and technicians, bringing more talent into what are often called ‘green’ jobs, says Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, a charitable organisation that promotes education and engagement in engineering and technology.

Last year we published a review of research on green jobs and the engineering and tech skills needed to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy, including energy and power. We’ve brought the various, worryingly large, numbers together, but there is real inconsistency around how these hundreds of thousands of ‘green jobs’ have been defined.


Clarity needs to be brought to these numbers and they then need to be used to drive action; we, and many others, have been asking the government for a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education strategy for some years. So we were pleased to see in the government’s recent Science and Technology Framework a commitment to ‘articulate and, where possible, forecast skills gaps in critical technologies… and actions needed to fill them’. This must surely prioritise roles in energy and other areas needing decarbonisation.


Current figures
The framework also commits to ensuring ‘a more diverse range of people enter the science and technology workforce’ – this will be essential to improve social justice and ensure that we are best positioned to come up with innovative solutions to the problems that are most societally relevant.


Only 16.5% of the engineering and technology workforce are women, making them the most underrepresented group, given that they make up 48% of the overall workforce. While other groups fare better, they still track low – with 24% for people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds in the engineering and tech workforce (compared with 26% overall), 11% for disabled people (compared with 15% overall) and 11% for people from UK minority ethnic groups (compared with 13% overall).


The good news is that young people have a keen interest in environmental sustainability. For instance, last year, 42% of Big Bang Competition entries were ‘green’ themed. This provides a good basis to attract them into engineering and tech careers. Indeed, our latest Engineering Brand Monitor revealed that students who think engineers are important for improving the environment are almost seven times more likely to be interested in a career that involves engineering than those who didn’t.


EngineeringUK’s work
At EngineeringUK, our focus is on inspiring and encouraging young people into the workforce so they have the fulfilling careers they deserve and industry has the diverse talent it needs.


We work with others in many different ways, and we’d welcome your involvement. For instance, our careers working group produces resources on behalf of the engineering community, such as our popular ‘green careers in engineering’ posters which are free to schools and come with discussion topics and thought-provoking activities.


All our careers resources and diverse career case studies are freely available on our Neon website for teachers and also free for organisations to list quality engagement activities.


We also run our own engagement programmes, including the Big Bang Fair and Competition, both of which have been supported by the Energy Institute. We also run Energy Quest, a workshop for students to collaborate to solve an energy challenge by adopting the role of engineers. We actively target schools with a high proportion of students from groups underrepresented in engineering and technology.


We know that good engagement activities can really influence young people. In general, school students who attend one or more STEM careers activity are 3.5 times more likely to know what people working in engineering do, and 3.4 times more likely to consider a career in engineering.


We believe in the power of collaboration so we’re really proud to manage the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code, a growing community of over 250 organisations working together to increase the impact of engineering outreach. It’s supported by our Tomorrow’s Engineers website, which hosts resources to help organisations and individuals deliver and evaluate impactful and inclusive activities – take a look for some guidance on effectively linking engineering and technology careers with environmental sustainability in schools.


If you run, design or fund engineering engagement activities I urge you to join The Code, list your activities on Neon, and use all the resources and guidance that we offer. It is only by working together that we will be able to attract more young people into the sector and meet future workforce needs.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author only and are not necessarily given or endorsed by or on behalf of the Energy Institute.