An entirely new private sector initiative funded to boost British engineering was launched to businesses at BETT (the education and technology trade fair). The Elite Engineering Programme was launched in conjunction with LEGO Education UK & Ireland, and programme manager Kate Bellingham in partnership with the principal funder, the Helsington Foundation, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Elite Engineering Programme aims to boost the number of talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who consider pursuing careers in engineering. The initiative aims to reignite the UK's status as a world leader in engineering.
The Elite Engineering Programme will reach out to young people in state schools from the age of 10 by establishing the profession as a credible career path from school right through to university and even into internships. It is the first engineering educational programme to take young people on that journey.
The programme has been created in response to research published last year by the Royal Academy of Engineering; "Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy" which found that the UK needs to increase (by around 50% per year) the number of science, technology, engineering and maths graduates.
Graham Sharp, the founder of both the Racing Steps and the Helsington Foundations explained why they have been a driving force behind the programme, "We founded both The Racing Steps and Helsington Foundations to help young, less advantaged people fulfil their potential. We're delighted to now extend our support to young, aspiring engineers through the Elite Engineering Programme. We hope other businesses will join us."
British entrepreneur Professor Anthony Purnell, who is a visiting professor of engineering at Cambridge and also a part of the founding partnership, explained; "I'm concerned that our brightest young people could be put off a career in engineering by the cost of university education. That would be tragic. The Elite Engineering Programme was created to stop that happening."
As part of the programme LEGO Education will provide schools with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education sets and lesson plans designed to complement the curriculum.
Matt Parkes, of LEGO Education commented; "We're keen to ensure that students from less privileged social backgrounds have a chance to find out whether engineering is the right career choice for them and LEGO Education resources have proven to be a fun and effective way of doing this."
With increased support from businesses the partnership hopes to deliver:
A Schools Programme - LEGO® MINDSTORM® Education sets will seed and nurture an interest in engineering through competitions in state schools from age 12.
University Scholarships - Generous scholarships will make engineering a more attractive subject for students of any background to study at university. Students will then be given opportunities to assume industry based internships providing valuable hands-on experience.
Visiting Professors - Leading engineering practitioners will be placed in universities to leave a legacy of teaching materials and industry-focussed course content and contacts.
University Competitions - A fund will be established to support UK university teams taking part in innovative competitions, such as Formula Student. These competitions have proven effective in motivating students, inspiring them to seek the knowledge and skills they need for a career in the industry.
The partners have launched the initiative at BETT as they're keen for other businesses to join them before they launch the programme to schools later in the year.
Matthew Harrison, the Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering which is overseeing the delivery of the programme, explained: "Engineering enterprise is vital for economic and social wellbeing. The Elite Engineering Programme will help break down the barriers to becoming an engineer and search in all sectors of society for the best engineering talent to help maintain this country's pre-eminence."
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Engineering is fundamental to our economic progress, so it's critical we ensure there are sufficient engineers to meet future demand.
"The Elite Engineering Programme is a good example of British businesses working together for the good of disadvantaged young people and the UK and I commend their commitment and leadership here."
"We are working closely with industry and continue to look at various ways to support engineering at all levels, such as engagement in schools, apprenticeships and postgraduate training including Engineering Doctorates."