Our future depends on understanding and celebrating UK engineering.

It seems not to be widely realised that engineering is a huge success story for the UK. Turnover of UK engineering enterprises is £1.06 trillion in the year ending March 2011; that’s about a quarter of the turnover of all UK enterprises and over three times the size of the retail sector.

Engineering brings us jobs: the UK engineering sector employs 5.4 million people across working in more than half a million companies

The UK has world-leading engineering companies, ranging from Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, McLaren, Jaguar Land Rover, Rockstar (developers of Grand Theft Auto – 125 million copies sold) and ARM (whose microprocessors power the world’s smartphones), to smaller world-leaders such as Oxford Instruments, Renishaw, and this year’s MacRobert Award winner, RealVNC – a 200 person company in Cambridge that develops the world’s most widely implemented software.

As Britain and the world come out of recession, we shall need many more engineers. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s analysis shows we need around 1.25 million science, engineering and technology professionals and technicians by 2020, (including a high proportion of professional engineers) to support the UK’s economic recovery. We must not allow the recovery to falter through an avoidable shortage of engineers and technicians.

We shall also need many more engineers to ensure that we have a secure supply of energy and to counter the threat of climate change, whether through Carbon Capture and Storage, renewable sources of energy, a new generation of nuclear power or through greatly improved flood defences and the relocation of vulnerable infrastructure. All of these will be needed and all will require engineers.

Where are these engineers to come from? The UK currently only creates about 12,000 engineering graduates each year, many fewer that our competitors or than the UK needs. We need to inspire many more young people to choose an engineering career – especially women, who are tragically under-represented on engineering undergraduate courses and technician apprenticeships.

Somehow, Britain has allowed the world of engineering to lose its glamour and status. This is not the case in China, Brazil, the USA or Germany, where the title of engineer ranks alongside doctor in esteem. We need to turn this round, because it is engineers who will design and build the world that we, our children and grandchildren will live in. What could be more important, more inspiring or more fun than inventing the future and seeing it built? Engineers are helping to bring clean water and food to the world’s poorest countries – in some cases literally making the desert bloom!

Whatever you want from a career, engineering can provide it: there are opportunities to earn a lot of money, to travel, to work with interesting and inspiring colleagues and to make the world a better place. We must not let down our young people by failing to explain the opportunities, the satisfaction and the sheer fun of a career in engineering. Engineering is most certainly not boring.