There’s a way into engineering to suit everyone says Ann Watson, Chief Executive of the engineering skills body, Semta and a member of the government’s taskforce on the skills for industrial digitalisation
You may not have heard of engineering, and you may not know what an engineer does. Engineers are, basically, people who solve problems. Need to keep the lights on even while the fossil fuels we burn to generate electricity are disappearing? Looking for a way to create the next generation of limbs for amputees? Want to build new cars which drive themselves? You need engineers for all of these things.
The best thing is that because engineering is about solving problems, engineers get to be creative in their work – no idea is too crazy for an engineer, and if you can think it, you can try it! And because the work engineers do is so important, they get paid well for it – the average yearly pay for an engineer is £40,000, and the top 10% get over £110,000.
There is a way into engineering to suit everyone’s tastes and everyone’s abilities. If you’re academically inclined and you like to study, you can do A-levels and a degree, and then go to work for an engineering company on one of their graduate programmes. If you prefer to be hands-on, you can do a technical qualification. And, perhaps best of all, if you’d like to earn while you learn and get real work experience, you can go down the apprenticeship route – nowadays, all the way up to master’s degree level!
As new technology means engineering is going to change quite a lot over the coming decades, with more robots and more artificial intelligence, the skills engineers will need are also going to change as a result. You are in prime position to take advantage of this change – the engineer of the future will need to have digital skills, and your generation is the first to be true ‘digital natives’.
The old stereotype of engineering is of someone in dirty overalls using a spanner to fix a machine – but it’s not like that anymore (if it ever really was). But don’t take my word for it – find out for yourself! Consider getting in touch with a local engineering company, organise a visit, take a look around and talk to the engineers there about what they do and how much they enjoy it. What I’ve written here is words on a page – but there’s nothing more likely to inspire you to choose engineering than seeing it up close.“