In general, little interest is shown in the early years when children can be introduced to the varied world of work. No wonder there is a skills gap with this general failure to work to address the problem.

But now, after initially focusing on promoting engineering to older children, manufacturing companies are getting involved with primary schools to tackle the growing skills gap.

 ayrshire pupils engineeringBudding scientists from primary schools took part in an engineering challenge in competition with schools across East Ayrshire

The FT’s manufacturing correspondent wrote about a Scottish village school which is ‘priming’ the next generation of engineers, who are designing and building vehicles, admittedly made of cardboard and powered by elastic. The headteacher believes the project has helped to spark interest among her pupils and made them think about the possibility of a career in the field. East Ayrshire Council is launching an engineering programme that will see all its nursery, primary and secondary school teachers trained over the next three years in topics from structures and mechanisms to programming and 3D printing.

imeche logoAs this site recorded earlier, ImechE, the fastest growing professional engineering institution in the UK, has a range of programmes for young people at primary as well as secondary schools. Parks School in Leicester also has an effective programme.

  • Primary Engineer, a non-profit organisation set up in 2005 that aims to interest young schoolchildren in engineering. It trains teachers how to create engineering projects that meet curriculum requirements.
  • Siemens will launch its first primary school scheme in September, based around MRI scanners and X-rays, which will teach children how the human skeleton fits together. It hopes to implement the scheme in all 23,000 primary schools across the UK. “We see the early introduction of engineering concepts as crucial to the development of young minds,” says Brenda Yearsley, UK school and education development manager at Siemens.
  • Jaguar Land Rover also offers the Jaguar Primary School Challenge, which shows children how to design, analyse, manufacture, test and race a miniature compressed-air powered car. Below can be seen the Year Six class at Pontnewynydd Primary School who design their own F1 race car using 3d CAD engineering computer software, testing its aerodynamic ability on an app on the class iPads’

Jaguar competition

bloodhound avon projectMeanwhile, more than 5,500 schools have taken part in the Bloodhound Supersonic Car programme, which teaches children about the project to build a 1,000mph car. (Left) Class 6 from Avon Primary School visited the new workshop for the Bloodhound SSC in Atlantic Way, Avonmouth. The children built and fired their own rocket cars.

Many UK industrialists believe that such programmes will address the shortage of engineers the country faces, which the Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts will rise to 200,000 by 2020. Other skills are needed:

In another FT article, the Business and Employment Editor reports that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said last week that construction workloads grew in the first three months of the year at the fastest rate for at least 20 years, but that – in most parts of the country – increasing skills shortages were reported in many trades, from bricklayers and carpenters to quantity surveyors.


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