“Engineering is enormously valuable to the UK economy but suffers from a chronic shortage of skills, let down by the leaking pipes of the education system that removes the option of an engineering career for too many young people at every stage of their education,” he stated.
“There has been scant progress in addressing the UK’s engineering skills gap since I first reviewed the education system five years ago, but the government’s Year of Engineering campaign in 2018 has shown what can be achieved with concerted and coordinated action.”
While there was increased support for apprenticeships and the new Technician Levels (T Levels) said Perkins, these needed to be more receptive to industry needs.
In particular he warned, organisations should be able to have more spending controls over the Apprenticeship Levy, while T Level content should provide a ‘broad technical education across disciplines’.
“We need to broaden the curriculum for post-16 education, value technical education on a par with academic progression, unlock more potential from the Apprenticeship Levy, and guarantee affordable, fair and inclusive access to engineering degrees,” explained Perkins.
“These changes have the potential to pay dividends in the years to come for young people, the economy, and society.”
The question marks over the future of 560,000 EU nationals working in the UK engineering sector and the current shortfall of between 37,000 and 59,000 engineering roles requiring Level 3 skills represented a considerable challenge implies the report.
These changes have the potential to pay dividends in the years to come for young people, the economy, and society
Professor John Perkins, report author
Perkins said government and industry urgently need to upskill people for “a wave of disruptive technology”. He added that Brexit could provide a stimulus for employers to act through necessity.
The report also criticised the UK’s poor track record for work placements in the sector. It noted that T Levels demand a 45 day placement – something beyond the means of many of the 90% of British engineering firms that employ fewer than 10 people.
Welcoming the new Perkins Report, IChemE head of education affairs Libby Steele said: “We’re delighted to have contributed to the report and welcome the recommendations.
“There is so much diversity to a career in engineering, highlighted by the This is Engineering campaign. As a professional qualifying body and a learned society, we encourage students to consider all routes to a career in chemical and process engineering.”