If you can want to see the future, look at the people who make weapons of mass destruction and look at the people who build our cities.
At always possible, we have no intention of supporting the arms trade – but we are diving head-first into the worlds of construction and engineering. Two sectors nearly always misunderstood.
If 30% of all UK school-age children in the system – right now – went on to work in engineering, they would still not fill all the vacancies needed to meet demand in the next 10 years. And the reality is that fewer than 5% will.
Engineering as an industry is that genuine sweet-spot between logic and creative risk, precision and wild design. If engineering was taught in schools, it would be the context so often missing in discrete maths, art, physics, IT and even geography.
I have spent the past 18 months on a project with engineers, thinking about critical skills needs that could make or break the UK.
The energy behind new ideas in plastics manufacturing, renewable energy, machine learning, autonomous vehicles and the internet of things is palpable. And the disconnect between these revolutions and the training, work experience and careers advice available is terrifying.
2018 is the UK government’s designated Year of Engineering. Most people don’t know that.
The language of Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM – sometimes STEAM when art is also usefully recognised) engagement initiatives is catching on in some areas – but it is piecemeal and not having the rapid cultural change that we need.
I think every child should start as an engineer – and then branch off later into whatever. But what if we learnt the concepts of designing, explaining, prototyping, building, taking apart and starting again until we get it right? – I can’t help but feel the human race would be in a better place. And that’s an arts graduate talking.
In construction, the conversation has moved on from brickies and joiners to a world of surveyors, computer-aided designers, project managers and modular housing experts – that NEED to include more women and people of colour. These are not industries for the low of aspiration or the culturally poor, but the leading edge of human living in the 21st century and beyond.
What do we need to do?
Kate, our Head of Projects, has been evaluating the first PrimarySpace project – an interactive event to enliven the ideas of careers in space engineering to over 800 primary children and a dozen trainee teachers.
It stems from the vision of Katherine Courtney, former CEO of the UK Space Agency, to make space science tangible and the otherworldliness of astronautical technology something that can be held and understood. Katherine’s right, we have to start making this real when children are 6 years old. But – the capacity for mainstream education to respond to this, and to confidently find space for something like, erm, space (beyond naming the planets) is so small.
We’ve been helping design this year’s Brighton Summit with the local chamber of commerce and came up with the Look Up! theme with Katherine as keynote speaker. You should come along to hear why space is vital.
For this understanding to be embedded, we need to empower and equip all teachers with new knowledge. We need to give them time away from the classroom to be immersed in the cutting edge ideas that will keep their curriculum immediate and irresistible.
Focusing on co-design and the dual professionalism of industry leader and teacher in Further and Higher Education, we’ll be developing the Teach Too methodology for collaborative skills development. With an initial scope of engineering and construction, we will attempt to build confidence and capacity for new ways of thinking about the relationship between engaging in new learning and recruiting/building a workforce.
What do you think?
Useful further reading:
Richard Freeman is CEO of always possible and a Trustee of work experience charity Fair Train