By Paul Jackson, Executive Director of Jasia Education Ltd and Author of the Talent 2050 Phase 1 Report

For Britain to compete globally in the middle of this century it needs high level engineering skills within a diverse workforce, ready to lead through unprecedented disruption and global competition.

That’s easy to say but the Talent 2050 programme aims to put flesh on the bones of these ideas by listening to the views of engineers around the country and summarising today’s state of play in skills through a review of the many existing research studies, known in the researchers’ trade as a Rapid Evidence Assessment or REA.

It reflects how important engineering skills are to the economy that the project was created through the National Centre for Universities and Business, supported by Barclays Bank, Pearson Education, NATS and London South Bank University. Rather than duplicate effort, we are supporting other skills initiatives, including the Independent Commission on Sustainable Learning for Life, Work and a Changing Economy, led by former Education Select Committee Chair Neil Carmichael, which has estimated a massive £108bn boost to the UK economy through changing skills education.

Workshops in Edinburgh, Sunderland and London included senior individuals from public and private sectors, trades unions, education and professional bodies, early career stage professionals and researchers. They looked at the attraction of engineering careers, barriers to progressing in engineering, missing parts of our current education and skills system, and finally future changes.

Some themes are clear. The ‘school to apprenticeship or university’ route for young people, even if changed to more effectively develop the skills needed, will not address the necessary change quickly enough. To drive a more diverse workforce and avoid skills shortages engineering needs to reach beyond existing STEM employees and consider a more inclusive approach where recruitment is based on the potential to gain the right skills and avoids rejecting talented people who haven’t already obtained them.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Government should reconsider the requirement for employers to take apprentices to Level 2 in English and Maths by the end point assessment, so employers can be actively encouraged to develop young people who display practical talents.

Digital skills, including AI, and environmental protection provide the foundation for future change and need to be fully integrated, with regional support, in an industrial strategy that embraces interdisciplinary working.

The first part of this work launches on 7th November at the Hitachi/Daily Telegraph Social Innovation Conference and kicks off a second phase with more in depth-workshops looking at how future possibilities will shape our skills needs, both for the engineering sector, and for engineering-type skills across sectors and society. The final report and recommendations of Talent 2050 will be published early in 2019.

Talent 2050: Engineering skills and education for the future Phase 1 Report by Paul Jackson (Jasia Education Ltd) and Robin Mellors-Bourne (Careers Research Advisory Centre) is available to read and download here.


Published: 7 November 2018