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We have a skills shortage in engineering. But what are we - and could we - be doing to stop this?

Engineering is a huge part of the UK economy. The UKs engineers are found in all kinds of sectors and we know they are essential to keep us as keen innovators and thinkers.

From aerospace to nuclear energy. Computing to farming. Skills and knowledge from a huge range of industries are in high demand. Surprisingly - given our apparently straightened times - there is shortage of these skills. 

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is an important area which we, as a country need to embrace and develop to encourage our future engineers. Attracting talented people to this sector is vital to support and maintain our economy and financial stability. Initiatives encouraging STEM subjects take place all the time- and we should all be taking advantage of them.

But how do young people perceive engineering?

Stereotypically, STEM subjects are dominated by males. Now, this means a lack of female role models in STEM jobs and a lack of self confidence in our own ability.

Despite the continuous push for women in engineering roles, the problem remains - significantly less women take up STEM subject for further education and career development. Although many are encouraged - and do - take up the traditionally male dominated subjects in school, they are often abandoned later in education. Incredibly only one in five engineering jobs which exist today are filled by women. 

Biases, stereotypes and misconceptions from a young age, impact young viewpoints. Everything from advertisements to children’s toys plant perceptions of what male and female occupations 'should' be. What many don’t realise is that engineering isn’t getting a toolkit and fixing something oily. It’s about being innovative and creative. It's about being a thought leader, envisioning solutions real world problems.
 

Attitudes. They can be changed. And they are

Christine Reid, is one of our engineers on the projects team. She takes care of the scope, budget, schedule and the risk in all of our projects, acting as the voice of the customer internally and the voice of Tharsus externally.

But we can’t just focus on women in engineering as an issue. There is a leaky pipeline for engineering jobs throughout Britain, and is predicted we will need 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025. We believe this could be addressed through engaging Britain’s young people and females to encourage the growth in this sector and address the long term engineering sustainability.

At Tharsus, one of our Continuous Improvement Engineers is part of the Common Room Youth Board at the Mining Institute. Through this, she can encourage young people in engineering and other STEM subjects. She uses her position as a young engineer to inspire and engage others, by understanding and being part of the heritage and innovation that has led to today’s engineering society.

 

Kerry Patterson is head of HR at Tharsus