Whilst exhibiting our new on-line simulation product at this year’s Learning Technologies Show in London, I noticed a man patiently looking over our stand. Curious to know more about his interest, I walked over and introduced myself.
I had no idea the ensuing conversation with Nathan Baker would lead me to discover why Britain’s got a talent crisis and that our work might be part of a wider solution.
Engineering a problem
Nathan Baker is the recently appointed Director of Engineering Knowledge at The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), an organisation with over 80,000 members in over 150 countries. A strategic and operational leader Nathan is keen to transform the way the engineering industry is perceived and the way in which engineers (regardless of career point) are able to learn and access relevant training.
According to Nathan, engineering is a booming industry; the multi-billion pound plans for UK infrastructure development over the coming years mean an additional 1.8 million engineers will need to be employed. However, only 50,000 engineering graduates are qualifying each year.
And in March 2015 a report was published by the design, engineering and project management consultancy, Atkins, predicting a severe UK shortage of engineering skills. Entitled The Skills Deficit: Consequences and opportunities for UK infrastructure the document highlights a number of consequences including increased costs, delay to projects, stifling of innovation and damage to the economy.
So how does the engineering industry address this problem?
Engineering a solution
In May this year I was invited to a ‘Learning Delivery Partner’ event at ICE HQ in Westminster. Leading the presentation, Nathan Baker explained to the audience how he wanted the Institution to work with digital partners to help transform the way in which engineers learned and developed skills.
Talking with eloquence and clarity, he argued that traditional learning and teaching methods were insufficient to meet the demands of the future. Nathan wanted new and relevant resources that allowed people to learn the right skills, at the right time and in the right place.
And since he saw business and commercial skills as a highly relevant part of an engineer’s skill-set, Nathan was keen for on-line business simulations to be incorporated with a view to providing a flexible training solution to the ICE membership.
Teaching business to engineers
Whilst SimVenture is used in most UK higher education institutions to support the teaching of business and entrepreneurship, it has also been introduced to support engineering degree programs at Cambridge, Birmingham and Loughborough etc.
Most recently London South Bank University invested in our work to allow engineering undergraduate students to develop employability skills and a gain deeper understanding of business. Plans are also in place to complete research to establish the impact of the simulations over the coming years.
Given the talent crisis facing the engineering sector I think there’s plenty of scope for us to work with many more university engineering departments. However, Nathan’s transformational ideas for training engineers indicates there should be as many opportunities for forward-think departments to work more closely with ICE too.
Key Learning Points: Engineering employment opportunities are set to boom in the UK and around the world. To meet the demands of the industry and to equip/attract suitably qualified personnel means developing new ways to engage people and providing the relevant skills at a time/place to suit.