Consultations are being launched on a revolutionary type of technical centre designed to inspire and educate a new generation of engineers. Success will help to solve the dramatic skills shortage that is currently constraining the development of many British technology companies, forcing 31 percent to look outside the UK for suitably qualified people.
“We have to overcome a culture in which one in five educators say that a career in engineering is ‘undesirable for students’,” says Dr Robert Pleming FRAeS, chief executive of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, the award-winning organisation initiating the project. “As the last airworthy Vulcan approaches the end of her flying life, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to a solution and welcome ideas from those with appropriate requirements, skills and resources.”
The Vulcan Engineering Education & Experience Centre (Ve3) will bring engineering to life through engagement with Vulcan XH558, one of the most dramatic examples of Great Britain’s world-beating engineering achievements. By combining the best elements of academic studies, practical training and inspirational experiences, it will help to overcome specific challenges identified by British engineering organisations.
In its 2011 Engineers & Engineering Brand Monitor, Engineering UK identified ‘enjoyment’ as a critical factor in students’ subject choices in the critical 14-16 age range. They also found that increased knowledge of engineering led to improved perceptions of engineering as a career. “Education is at its most powerful when it is fun,” says Dr. Pleming. “Ve3 will be designed with this message front-of-mind, not just for children but for all ages to help both young people andthose who teach and influence them.”
Current thinking is that 2013 is likely to be XH558’s – the Spirit of Great Britain’s – last flying season due to the high cost of the modifications to her airframe that would then be necessary to utilise the remaining engine flying life. “After that, we will be able to deliver full-power fast taxi runs as part of educational experiences and draw on the world-class engineering expertise required to operate within one of the world’s most heavily regulated environments,” explains Dr. Pleming. “By touching the emotions alongside hands-on education, Ve3 will bring engineering to life, demonstrate the thrill of innovation and explain the vital role of engineers in today’s society.”
“At this stage, we are seeking guidance from sector specialists on what shape Ve3 should take, how it should be structured, managed and resourced and what complementary organisations would benefit from taking part,” explains Dr. Pleming. “We can see opportunities for partnerships with businesses and Government as well as with other organisations with similar educational objectives.”
“Independent research confirms that this is the type of new approach that our economy needs if we are to continue supporting the growth of world-class technology businesses in the United Kingdom,” concludes Pleming. “I’d like to encourage everyone involved in education and in the engineering industries to read our consultation document.”
Read the Ve3 consultation document here: tinyurl.com/futureengineer Engineering UK’s 2011 Engineering & Engineers Brand Monitor Executive Summary: engineeringuk.com/_db/_documents/EngineeringUK_EEBM_2011_Executive_Summary_-_FINAL.pdf