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Skills and STEM: the Elephant in the roomSeptember 2016


Julia Evans OBE, Chief Executive, BSRIA
With or without Brexit – skills remains the “elephant in the room”.

BSRIA, along with many sections of the industry, is aware of the shortage of young people starting construction careers. Much of this issue is about a lack of knowledge of the types of careers available in engineering and a false perception that the entire construction industry is manual, outdoor and male-dominated.

In April, group of Year 9 students from Ranelagh School, Bracknell, visited BSRIA as part of their STEM Club (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The students got ‘hands-on’ with measuring sound and temperature as well as testing prototype weather louvres which they had designed and built themselves.

The afternoon formed part of BSRIA’s INSPIRE project, running throughout 2016, wherein a series of events to inspire and engage the workforce of the future with what the construction industry has to offer.

The BSRIA INSPIRE project is working with local schools, national and local politicians and the media to promote STEM and change its persona. Industry recruitment and succession planning is crucial – the INSPIRE project will address this.

But attracting women into the construction industry remains tricky.

On Thursday 23rd June, BSRIA celebrated National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) in an attempt to promote the subject to students in schools and universities and encourage more women into engineering.

Currently, less than 10 per cent of the engineering sector’s workforce is female and yet 64 per cent of UK engineering companies report that a shortage of engineers is threatening their business.

This untapped potential could help to fill the industry skills shortage apparent in UK engineering, as well as increasing gender diversity and inclusion. Industry experts predict that we need to double the number of UK students studying engineering degrees.

BSRIA is very supportive of women going into engineering and proud to be employing many female engineers itself who are flourishing. And history has shown that those who pursue science arguably make the biggest impact to the world; incredible minds provide us with incredible ideas we once might have thought of as unbelievable but are now ingrained in our society. Engineers help make the future a reality.

Naturally, skilled engineering graduates are essential to BSRIA and the industry workforce of tomorrow. The construction sector’s demand for suitable skilled workers is paramount. However, it’s clear that A Levels, TechBacc programmes and apprenticeships are all vital.

Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, says: “BSRIA is encouraged that there has been an increase in students taking maths over arts subjects. Learning the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects forms the building blocks of a career in engineering and construction. Lose this and you lose the very foundation of this discipline.

Our economy relies on students progressing to engineering.

After the recent A Level and AS Level results it was especially encouraging to see applications to study chemical engineering at university have increased this year – applications to study this at the University of Bath shot up by 50 per cent this year – with computer science courses also high in demand. A record number of students have got into university overall too which is excellent news.”

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