Dear GCSE Students,
As you are about to receive your GCSE results, this is a good time to think about what you want to do next. What kind of a career would you like to pursue – and which path should you choose to make it happen? I hope one of the options you are considering is engineering, for all the reasons set out below.
First, a bit about you. I assume you want a career with good prospects for your personal development, in interesting jobs that are well paid. You have a ‘can do’ approach to life. You like understanding how things work, solving problems and making things work even better. You like being creative. You like working in teams. You have some ability in STEM subjects (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) – either academically or in terms of practical skills.
Above all, you want to make a difference in a world facing the twin challenges of climate change and artificial intelligence (AI). Fact is, we need more engineers than ever to develop and deliver the solutions which will tackle global warming and literally save the world: and while AI is seen by many as a threat to jobs in creative industries such as media, for engineers it opens up a wealth of opportunities to solve problems more quickly and effectively.
So here are seven reasons why you should choose engineering:
Engineers make the world work – and have the power to change the world for the better. Without engineers, there would be no clean water, electricity, transport, safe structures, modern housing, new medical treatments, phones or internet, to name a few. Engineers can take pride in jobs that are essential for every aspect of life. This is recognised in places like Germany, where engineers have high social and professional status, up there with lawyers and doctors. Less so in the UK, but times are changing fast.
There is an enormous shortage of engineers. The IET (Institution of Engineering & Technology) estimates the UK shortfall at over 173,000. Recruitment company Quantum says there’s an annual demand for 124,000 engineers and technicians across the country, as well as another 79,000 mixed application roles that require a broad engineering skillset. The shortage is expected to increase, so there are plenty of jobs waiting for you.
The range of engineering careers is as wide as human activity itself, with disciplines essential to sectors including electricity, water, chemical, mechanical, structural, environmental, civil, medical, bioscience, manufacturing, software, hardware … the list is almost endless. Many sectors have overlapping requirements, so in our case as specialists in electrical power, engineers are involved in everything from computer technology to electronics, and from research and development to manufacturing. Engineers themselves often develop multiple skill sets and can swap between roles.
Engineers are typically well paid, with salaries increasing steadily with experience. According to a survey by The Engineer publication, the average UK engineer earns more than £57,000 per year, with the highest pay in the renewables, nuclear and manufacturing industries at more than £63,000. Starting salaries can be £24,000 to £30,000+ and the most senior engineers can earn over £100,000.
A university degree is by no means the only route into an engineering career. There are multiple options for gaining engineering-related qualifications in technical schools and colleges. Companies themselves are increasingly offering a wide range of training and apprenticeship schemes, which combine paid work with learning on the job and college courses. Another option is the armed services, where recruits can specialise in a choice of engineering disciplines and finish their service with qualifications which are highly valuable in civilian life.
The prejudice that engineering is exclusively for boys is disappearing fast. Increasingly, some of our best engineers are women. They come from all backgrounds and work in virtually every field of engineering. Have a look at three of our team who were featured as part of International Women in Engineering Day – and check out their three very different paths into engineering.
Engineering is an international career, because engineering-based knowledge and skills are universally in demand – and are expected to become more so, as the world gears up to tackle the unprecedented challenges of addressing climate change. There has never been a more exciting time for young people who want to develop a career which is truly global and important to humanity.
I wrote above that engineers have the power to change the world. If you choose this path, you may not have quite the history-making impact of Michael Faraday (1791-1867), whose work led to the electric motor and electricity generator (among many other things), or Elon Musk, who originally studied physics and materials sciences. But whatever branch of engineering you follow, you will certainly have the opportunity to make a positive difference, however small, in a career which can be challenging, creative and rewarding in every way.
I hope you achieve the GCSE results for which you were aiming. Do choose your next steps wisely: and if you have any leaning towards science, engineering, technology and mathematics, I urge you to consider a future as an engineer – because we need you.
Dr Jon Hiscock, CEO, Fundamentals Ltd.
Find out more about Fundamentals Ltd on their member profile page here