STEM education has been an issue in getting young people into engineering careers for many years, however, we are starting to see improvement.
- In 2017, 41% of total A-level entries were in STEM subjects, a 1% increase on the previous year
- There was a 5% growth in applicants for engineering higher education courses in 2015/16, greater than the 2.7% experienced across all subjects
Things are improving in terms of students continuing down STEM education paths that may lead them into engineering careers. But there’s still a problem. Somewhere along the line these young people stop, change direction and never go into a career in engineering.
Each year 124,000 engineers are needed to fill existing roles and an additional 79,000 new engineering roles are created. This means 203,000 people with engineering skills are needed every year, but with an annual shortfall of 59,000 going into the engineering profession there’s no wonder 46% of engineering employers report recruitment difficulties.
What does this mean for the medical devices industry?
The conversations our Meditech team have with medical device companies time and again uncover a struggle to recruit engineers more than any other role type.
The ‘talent bubble’ is at imminent risk of bursting.
When talking to Ryan (Director and Meditech Team Leader) he stated that ‘talented people who have worked in medical engineering for their entire lives are starting to retire and they’re not being replaced. There’s a risk of valuable knowledge not being passed on to the future generation of medical engineers.’
There’s a very real need to solve this issue. The best place to start is asking why young people aren’t going into engineering.
Is careers education failing young people?
According to reports by Engineering UK:
- Only 28% of 11-14 year olds have taken part in a STEM-based careers activity in the past year.
- Only 2 in 5 teachers feel confident giving their students careers advice about engineering roles.
- Only 36% of 11-14 year-olds know what to do next to become an engineer.
- 58% of 11-14 year-olds know almost nothing or just a little about what apprentices do and the different types of apprenticeships available
Careers education is hugely important in allowing students to make informed decisions about their futures. In it’s current state, careers education around the engineering profession is lacking. Rather than opening doors to these types of careers, they are being shut.
Work experience, or lack thereof, is another major barrier to getting more young people into medical engineering. The opportunities that exist with large medical device companies are, on the whole, targeting students too late, when they are university aged. Younger students are simply not able to access work experience in this field and this may discourage them from continuing not only into higher STEM education, but also a career in engineering.
Similarly, many students are not told about apprenticeship routes and are, instead, encouraged to go down the university path. In 2016, only 33 in 1,000 11-year-olds would go on to achieve an advanced engineering apprenticeship.
Whilst encouraging engineering university courses is undeniably helpful for getting graduates into the workplace, double the amount of engineering apprentices are currently needed and efforts need to be focused on showing young people all of their options.
What are the solutions for the medical devices market?
Increased interactions between young people and those within engineering careers plays an important role in helping young people to make informed decisions about their careers and can translate into improved employment outcomes. If young people are confident in knowing where a career can take them, they are more likely to want to pursue it.
- Better quality careers education that opens medical engineering pathways up to young people
- Medical device companies to become more active in the careers education space, offering better work experience schemes and education opportunities to people at secondary schools
- More information about routes into careers that don’t involve university, including increased exposure to apprenticeships as a viable career choice
What do you think?