Manufacturing FutureWe are living in a time of blindingly rapid technological change. Every day we read about a new material or method of manufacture that will not only improve our productivity but help us to improve health and raise living standards across the world. We are on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution.

But….

In the UK, the Royal Academy of Engineering predict that by 2022 we will have a shortage of around 550,000 advanced technicians and professional engineers.

In the States, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute estimate that due to a talent shortage, around 60% of the 3.4 million manufacturing jobs needed in the next decade are likely to be unfilled.

Although around 50,000 engineers graduate from UK universities every year, it is still 37,000 short of our predicted need. And despite the number of technical and engineering apprenticeships being on the increase, only half of the entrants finish their training.

How do we ensure the right skills for the future?

You might be tempted to think; Ok let’s list the skills we need and then design relevant, interesting and practical courses to be delivered in our universities, colleges and schools.

But this is extremely challenging. It’s estimated that 65% of today’s primary school children will go into jobs that don’t even exist yet! (US Department of Labor, 2013)

Also, our initial skill set is unlikely to see us through a lifetime of work.

Most industrialists and educators agree that sparking interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects from primary school upwards is a great start.

So as well as involving students in exciting STEM based activities, we need to equip them with the ability and desire to constantly learn, not just memorise facts.

Phew – we seem to have solved that then! “Someone” can revamp our education system and “the employers” can look after continual skills development.

It’s not enough!

I think each of us in industry has a vital role to play. Right now!

It’s our responsibility to inspire the next generation to continue designing and building the world around us.

Whether we are in manufacturing, engineering or as a parent, we can influence and support their choices.

I’m going to end this blog with a list of just a few of the ways we can do this. And a challenge for you.

  • Encourage youngsters to experiment with the latest technology. As representatives of Siemens explained it to me, they are looking for the gamers of today to be the designers of tomorrow.

Our iPad and smart phone savvy children are at home with the intuitive, visual drag-and-drop interfaces that will be increasingly used in the workplace alongside the VR and AR technology.

  • Inform them about the myriad of possibilities open to them by choosing STEM subjects.

While some are excited by images showing amazing feats of construction, plenty more are impressed by YouTube videos of AR gaming.
Manufacturing Future

  • Share your exciting industry experiences, talk at school careers events. My job was described as “sick” by a year 8 student. What a compliment!
  • Volunteer your skills at clubs (some links below). Especially ones in emerging technologies. 82% of young people say they are interested in digital making. But only half get the chance to do this once a week or more. Could you help year 7s with these BBC micro:bits?

My challenge to you – what will you do to build a better manufacturing future?

Interesting clubs and schemes

https://makerclub.org/ ‘The Maker Movement’ was the top toy trend of 2015!

http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ambassadors/ Encourage young people to enjoy STEM subjects.

http://www.ogdentrust.com/ Inspiring primary children with a love of science, especially physics. Providing continued professional development for teachers.

http://www.mykindafuture.com/ Schemes to get large business creating challenges for school leavers.

Creating UK engineers of the future – http://www.theengineer.co.uk/all-hands-on-deck-to-create-uk-engineers-of-the-future/