By Sir Julian Young
Sir Julian is the President of the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) and Chair of the Advisory Board of The Tomorrow’s Engineers Code.
I have now been the proud Chair of the Advisory Board of ‘The Code’ for 2 years and last month I attended the first Tomorrow’s Engineers face-to-face event, Tomorrow’s Engineers Live, which celebrated STEM activity and our progress in growing The Code. With the passing of these 2 milestones, I feel now seems like a good time for reflection.
We need to address the skills challenge in the engineering sector and to achieve this we must inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians. I believe through The Code we can do just that.
Around 4 years ago, it was recognized there were lots of people and organisations involved in STEM activity - large corporate companies, the professional engineering institutions, the armed forces, enabling organisations, such as STEM Learning, and many small enterprises - but little collaboration between them. Each of these organisations share the same challenge - struggling with recruiting sufficient engineering talent of the right quality. At the time, I recall the Royal Academy of Engineering reporting there were around 600 organisations undertaking STEM outreach in the UK and it knew the names of around 300 of them.
Simultaneously, Sinead Lynch, who then was Chair of Shell UK and a strong sponsor of STEM engagement, pulled together a meeting of a few organisations. The purpose of this was to explore ideas of how we might work together to achieve more impact in STEM outreach. This was driven in part by her industry desperately needing to secure its own talent pipeline, though another important driver was a wider mission of wanting to create opportunities for young people and being in a position to make a difference.
I attended this founding meeting, then as a serving member of the Armed Forces and appointed Defence Engineering Champion. After a lot of talking and correspondence, her idea was launched to try and link together all these organisations. At the meeting I am extremely proud to have coined the term, The Code.
It sounds simple, but it took a significant amount of coordination to agree on the words and organisation to hold it all together. This is when EngineeringUK stepped up to deliver and manage The Code on behalf of the engineering community. Accordingly, I’d like to thank the Trustees of EngineeringUK for taking on this task. I also thank Hilary Leevers, its CEO, Director of Engagement Projects, Melanie Washington, and the wider team for their dedicated commitment in bringing The Code to life.
It has taken substantial resource to establish a website and people to manage the large number of stakeholders across the engineering community. At this point, I must mention the incredibly generous help that has been given to support The Code. This is through funding and in-kind support from companies and organisations The Code is working in partnership with. This includes Shell UK, Network Rail, Anglo American and the Department for Education, and I’d like to thank them publicly for their vision and generosity. In particular, thank you to Shell UK and Network Rail for sponsoring the Tomorrow’s Engineer Live event that took place last month.
The Code was launched in October 2020 and its vision is to work together to inspire a diverse engineering workforce. The mission became the commitment to work toward common goals, or pledges and increase the diversity and number of young people entering engineering careers. I trust that none of us will argue with that.
Now, for anyone reading the 4 pledges today, I trust they will describe them as no-brainers. The agreed pledges as you can see here, are straightforward and emphasise 4 themes:
To sign up to The Code you need simply to be an organisation that funds, designs and/or delivers engineering outreach activities in the UK. However, the clever bit is using The Code to share information about what they’re doing, where they’re doing it, their contacts and what works best. By sharing this information, it means:
- Everyone can learn more quickly from ideas that work;
- That those starting in this field won’t make the same mistakes as those going before them; and
- There is likely to be less overlap on coverage and more schools and colleges can be targeted with the same resources.
We’ve worked out that this information is best shared on a regional basis than by sector. It’s clear that the quality and quantity of STEM outreach can be improved through collaboration. This means The Code can be more effective in spreading our collective influence further and faster by working together.
With this in mind, The Code is launching a new tool this Autumn to facilitate this called ‘Code Connect’. All Signatories and Supporters will get access to Code Connect, and access allows all members of The Code to see detailed information about the engineering outreach activities others deliver and the option to connect with them.
I must reinforce the point that The Code has been co-created by and for the engineering community, and is ‘owned’ by its Signatories and Supporters.
I am delighted to report that there are now 204 Signatories and 25 Supporters of The Code. The plan is to keep growing towards 500+ inside the next 5 years and this is our ‘stake in the ground’ strategy.
It is important that we manage the growth of The Code carefully. We could set out to simply sign more organisations up to The Code, though this individual act must be meaningful. Progress is shaped by the balance between quantity with quality and changing behaviours as a result of being part of The Code.
Notably, 22 members of The Code so far are SMEs, this represents just 10% and is an area of focus for us to expand as we know there are lots of such organizations out there - indeed, some of the ‘lost 300’. I was also pleased to also see there was a session on working with SMEs in the Tomorrow’s Engineers Live programme.
Looking to the future, EngineeringUK will continue to facilitate the governance of The Code. They are also committed to a biennial review to see and how Signatories are meeting the pledges, from which we can learn lessons.
The Code has so far delivered 11 webinars to bring people and organisations together. Also, the first annual check-in has been completed to understand how members are contributing to the pledges. Indeed, the results from this were illuminating.
Over half of those returning data agree or strongly agree that The Code has improved how they collaborate with other organisations involved in STEM outreach. This is a great start though we acknowledge there is much more to do.
Finally, if you have not done so already, I would like to urge you to join The Code today. Together we can use our collective impact to work towards increasing the number and diversity of young people entering engineering careers across the UK.
More details on The Tomorrow’s Engineers Code and how to join are available on The Code website, and if you want to get in contact with me or the The Code Team on anything please do. Thank you for supporting the future of our wonderful profession.