A year long campaign to boost the pubic perception of engineering was launched on September 2 at the Engineering Council’s annual meeting. The Year of Engineering Success in 1997 (YES) will highlight the shortage of quality applicants for apprenticeships and other engineering opportunities in industry. Over 50 companies are involved including BT, British Gas, BP, National Grid, National Power and Vickers, with support from government departments, trade unions and professional institutes. As well as persuading young people to look afresh at the opportunities, the campaign wants companies to invest in skills training and opinion formers to understand the importance of engineering for the economy.
An extensive programme of some 5,000 national and regional events is being planned, with separate campaign committees in each of 12 regions, headed by a senior industrialist. Companies have contributed two-thirds of the ?1.2 million core running costs, but the total cost of the campaign is estimated at around ?20 million. Contact Mike Hird, YES, on 0171 723 9714
STANDARDS DON’T ADD UP
Low standards in school mathematics is affecting the competitiveness of UK industry, as many students join university engineering and science courses with inadequate numeracy. These findings came in a report published on September 5 by a working party of the Society of Education Officers, the Engineering Council and the Standing Conference on Schools’ Science and Technology. Containing key recommendations for action, it identifies the quality of teaching in primary schools as a critical factor and also says that maths must be introduced into other disciplines at the 16+ age. Contact Brian O’Neill, Engineering Council, on 0171 240 7891 >
YOUNG ENGINEERS AWARD
Over 1,200 young people entered the 1996 Young Engineers for Britain scheme and the winning project – a new technique to treat wrist injuries – was chosen on September 18 during the finals held at London’s Heathrow Airport. The competition aims to strengthen links between education and industry by encouraging engineering projects by 11 to 19 year olds, with total prize money of ?20,000. Principal national sponsors are Lloyd’s Register, GEC and British Airways Engineering, with some 16 other companies supporting individual prizes. Contact Brian O’Neill, Engineering Council, on 0171 240 NEW FUTURE FOR YOUTH
Barclays Bank has launched its 1997 New Futures scheme, with ?1 million for secondary school projects that help pupils to develop their skills through local community action. Announced on September 5 and run in association with CSV, awards of ?3,000 or ?7,000 are on offer together with resource materials, teachers’ packs and back-up from CSV. An advisory panel will help to select the winning projects; the deadline for applications is December 16. In the last two years, Barclays New Futures has helped 360 schools with a wide range of projects, some tackling truancy, racism, after-school activities and the needs of elderly people. Contact Michele McGinity, Barclays New Futures, on 0171 221 7833
COMPUTERS FOR SCHOOLS
A new scheme to encourage companies to donate surplus computer equipment to education has been founded, concentrating first on schools with fewer than one computer per ten pupils. Free Computers for Education is setting up a network of local committees to collect and allocate the PCs, all of which must be in working order and have a minimum 386 specification. The scheme is backed by Multimedia Exhibitions and supported by the National Association of Headteachers and the National Confederation of Parent-teacher Associations. Contact Stephen Brice, FCFE, on 0181 251 0296
WORK WITH CAREERS
Employers should work with the Careers Guidance Service to understand better what the education system can do for their young recruits, according to Scottish education minister, Raymond Robertson MP. Speaking at a meeting of the Institute of Careers Guidance on September 14, he praised the partnership in Scotland with local education authorities and local enterprise companies (TECs in England and Wales), as the careers service must understand the needs of companies too. Contact Dermont Dick, ICG, on 0131 556 7384
Is it not extraordinary, by any reasonable standard, that engineering companies cannot recruit enough quality young people? Estimates show that more than a fifth of the 9,000 apprenticeships on offer will remain unfilled this year. Given the numbers of unemployed, the problem is not lack of availability, but their capability and aptitude for the world of work. Clearly all that companies are doing in schools is more necessary than ever: the news reports above on computers for education and the excellent Barclays scheme, bringing skills development and civic involvement together, are only the latest examples.
However the engineers’ campaign tackles deeper problems than poor schooling and the perceived unattractiveness of an apprenticeship when mates are moving on to college. By targeting the campaign at the general public through advertising and at opinion formers through events and direct contact, the engineers have recognised a wider malaise: the low esteem of manufacturing industry in particular and perhaps even commerce as a whole.
The companies are to be commended for pooling resources and campaigning as an industry. Others could usefully emulate their approach. At the time of Brent Spar, we warned of a widespread lack of understanding about the impact on the environment of the products which consumers demand. We suggested that the ‘licence to operate’ of some industries could be challenged if firms did not cooperate at an industry level to engage in debate and educate the public. The engineers have shown how.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 30 – October, 1996