This week’s poll: Engineering education

Written by: Stuart Nathan
Published on: 22 Aug 2016

How can we best ensure a strong pipeline of students entering further engineering training, either at university or in apprenticeships?

UK government article

Students need advice and experience to understand what an engineering career might involve.

This year’s A-level results, published last week, indicate a slight drop in the number of students taking the qualifications necessary to enter engineering course at university: maths, physics, and design and technology. Several of the UK engineering institutions have indicated their concern at this, as the skills gap by the retirement of qualified engineers shows no signs of closing, and worries remain about the ability of engineering companies to recruit overseas personnel in the face of the UK’s upcoming exit from the European Union.

This is a subject which has always proved to be of interest to readers of The Engineer. The question in this case is less one of the quality of education at university, as one of how best to ensure that students aged 16 are best prepared and enthused to enter engineering courses.

Taking as our lead some of the comments from engineering institutions, we would like to ask readers how best they think this problem should be tackled. One option might be to tackle an obvious gap in the education system: there is no A-level subject actually called “engineering”. There is no doubt that there could be one; a mixture of the relevant applied maths, some practical work involving forces, and possibly some relevant history might be the component parts of such a course. Might this help solve the problem?

Another option, as suggested by the IET, would be to supplement or even replace the A-level syllabus with the International Baccalaureate; this, the Institution argues, is a more broadly-based course incorporating physics and maths that might help avoid the problem of forcing 16-year-old students to take too narrow a path. A further option might be to reform the physics and maths syllabuses to ensure that they are more relevant to engineering; yet another might be for engineering companies to improve the level of engagement with schools at the points where A-level options are chosen to make sure that students are better aware of the possibilities of careers in engineering and more sure about how they can best achieve the qualifications needed to study the discipline at university (or for that matter, to qualify for apprenticeships).

As ever, comments are welcome and are particularly useful if you choose the ‘none of the above’ option.We will show the results of this on this page on 30 August.

Please click the link below to vote and comment.