A tech mindset is the engineering qualification that matters
We've been supporting WorldSkills UK with their engineering roundtables set up to explore the future of the engineering industry, where it is moving in terms of technology and the implications that has for skills, training and development.
Before the roundtable participants considered four key questions:
- Leadership: Historically the onus has been on employer-led leadership in innovation and investment in new technologies. What role is there for more skill sector leaders to proactively engage with industry leaders to help prepare for the future?
- Productivity: Are enough UK businesses critically appraising how this technological change can transform their production and manufacturing arms. How can the UK use these technologies and strengths to improve productivity and competitiveness?
- Perception: How do we create a positive narrative around creating opportunities for many new and highly skilled and well paid jobs, and give more young people a sense of optimism about future opportunities?
- Pathways: As engineering and technology begin to converge more and more, how will new integrated disciplines such as engineering and computer science be effectively distilled into new career or education pathways? How do we upskill teachers to teach these students and keep them in the profession for the long term?
Given the wide ranging discussion, there was a very clear sense that we need to reimagine engineering and this will require leadership and innovation from industry and education. The scale of the reboot needed was acknowledged, in terms of how we prepare young people through more creative education processes which are aligned with more innovative thinking at work. From the discussion we drew the following practical conclusions and actions:
- Technology as a disruptor: We need to embrace technology change by breaking down existing workplace practices, and developing new attitudes towards innovation. This requires leading organisations to create an environment in which employees are able to behave and think more creatively. Giving employees the freedom to innovate and move beyond traditional career-driven models and embracing lattice careers is vital.
- Qualifications vs mindsets: We need to encourage creativity and the application of knowledge in the education system and encourage young people to move between disciplines as new technologies emerge. As a result, qualifications must keep up with this pace of change and reflect the experience and creativity employers are seeking.
- Convening more information exchange is crucial: We need to convene conversations between industry and education more regularly to enable better understanding of shared challenges at a leadership level, when time and resources are constrained.
- Seeing is believing: We need to give young people the hands-on experience of new technology in engineering to truly enthuse them, and consider ways of doing this digitally.
- Science fiction to science fact: We need to continue to challenge perceptions, to enable young people to be themselves and take the lead, with young people helping to shape the ‘science fiction future’ to a ‘science fact’ present reality and in turn support employers with their recruitment processes to make them more attractive to more young people.