Robots and children highlight solution to Scottish skills shortage

This January saw the IET Engineering Trends in Scotland event take place.

Image of young children getting involved at the Scottish parlaiment event

Ministers of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) were urged to promote greater collaboration between industry and education in order to find a solution for the lack of engineers in Scotland. Supported by a team of school children and their robot, the IET also highlighted the importance of inspiring school children to become engineers. MSPs, business leaders and academics attended a reception at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by Dr Elaine Murray MSP, to hear from children and teachers at Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce (Parkside Primary School). The students demonstrated their robotics entry to the IET FIRST® LEGO® League competition, a global robotics competition to inspire children to study science and engineering-related subjects at school.

A risk to business

After a keynote address from Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, IET Chief Executive Nigel Fine highlighted that more than half (59 per cent) of engineering employers in Scotland say a shortage of engineers could jeopardise their business. He also highlighted that two thirds (67 per cent) of Scottish engineering businesses are worried that the education system will struggle to keep up with the skills required in today’s technological world – and that more can be done to engage parents in understanding the benefits of an engineering career. “The engineering sector has a crucial role to play in delivering growth for Scotland, in building Scotland’s capacity to compete in a global market and in shaping Scotland’s ability to cope with pressures on the world’s resources,” Nigel says.

Supply and demand

“Demand for engineers in Scotland remains high, with supply unable to keep pace, and employers continuing to highlight skills shortages as a major concern. “That is why stronger and deeper collaboration between employers and academic institutions is needed to agree practical steps to ensure that young people are suitably prepared – both academically and practically before they start work. “Employers must also recognise the need for workforce diversity and do more to attract recruits from a wider talent pool,” he continues. “This might include looking at other professions, such as medicine and accountancy that have been more successful at attracting a diverse workforce. “It also means working with parents and teachers to promote engineering as a creative, rewarding and exciting profession for girls as well as boys.”

The figures quoted above are from the IET’s Skills & Demand in Industry report, available to download at: www.theiet.org/skills