A scheme that will inspire more young people to pursue careers in engineering was launched on Teesside this week, with a call for employers to get involved.
Professor John Perkins CBE, a former chief scientific advisor to government who published his Review of Engineering Skills in 2013, was at Middlesbrough College to talk about the Primary Engineer programme.
The not-for-profit organisation provides training to teachers on how to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects interesting to school children at an early stage.
Professor Perkins, who has a distinguished academic career including positions at The University of Manchester and Imperial College, toured Middlesbrough College’s £20m STEM Centre before meeting with students and employers, including the likes of Nissan, Sevcon and ElringKlinger.
He said: “Primary Engineer is a response to employers’ constant calls for more engineering skills, and provides the opportunity to get young people interested in well paid careers in engineering.
“We know that we really need to start early in engaging young people with science and maths. Their relationships with these subjects are shaped at the beginning of school – and can be influenced by a great teacher or a fun project.”
He added: “Engineering is a hugely creative discipline and I think we need to demonstrate that to the young people that it might interest.”
At the event co-organised by EEF, the manufacturers’ association, Professor Perkins talked to college students about his career and answered questions about the engineering sector and working within it.
21 year-old Connor Darby, from Boosbeck, is studying a Level 3 BTEC in mechanical engineering and is an apprentice at car parts manufacturer ElringKlinger.
He said: “I’m a production engineer and, together with someone else, I look after an area of the factory floor.
“It’s really interesting to hear from someone with such a varied career as Professor Perkins.”
Taylor Shepherd, 18, from Ingleby Barwick, is nearly two years into a BTEC Mechanical Maintenance qualification at Middlesbrough College.
He said: “My ambition is to go into aerospace engineering. I’ve had a fascination with helicopters since I was young, and this course will prepare me to follow a route I’m interested in.”
Liz Mayes, EEF region director – North East, said: “Embedding STEM learning into primary school learning is crucial to making sure we have the next generation of engineering skills to support industry.”
Primary Engineer already has 137 schools on board from around the North East, and this week held a training event with 23 schools from Teesside.
The scheme’s founder and chief executive, Susan Scurlock, said Primary Engineer will equip teachers to make STEM subjects engaging for their classes.
She explained: “We used the term STEM by stealth some time ago, but this is really at the heart of what Primary Engineer does.
“We help teachers to build these subjects into fun classroom activities so that young people are engaged with science and maths without necessarily realising it.”
Zoe Lewis, the principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, welcomed the launch of Primary Engineer.
She said: “Middlesbrough College is delighted to host the launch of Primary Engineer on Teesside – a vital scheme that fosters vital skills among young people.
“It is also fantastic to host Professor John Perkins and to hear about his experiences in the science and engineering sectors, experiences that will inspire our students.”
• Pictured (above): Middlesbrough College students, with, from back right, Ian Smith, Professor John Perkins and Ian Malcolm.