"

With the enormous economic growth in Asia's developing countries, there are worries that the UK is falling far behind in the fields of innovation and enterprise. The balance of payments has shown that we are no longer one of the top dogs in a field which, over many years, has produced pioneers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Christopher Cockerell and Frank Williams.

The announcement that James Dyson, another of our most famous innovators, is setting up a new Academy of Design and Innovation is therefore extremely welcome. The academy is being created to encourage development in the talented young engineers of the future. Commenting on the announcement, Charles Leigh, General Manager for Construction and Engineering Technology at City and Guilds said: "It is timely and appropriate that this issue is widely debated in business, government and education circles and that collectively we find a solution"¦."

An opportunity to Spread Expertise

Charles Leigh continued: "Whilst the Chancellor recognises that Britain needs to specialise in high skills professions such as engineering, Dyson has taken the bull by the horns and put forward a practical solution, supported by the Government and key business players such as Rolls-Royce and BAe, who value good vocational training and already work closely with City and Guilds.

An academy of design is a good starting point and linking its work to that of the academies currently under development by the engineering-related sector skills councils should raise the profile of engineering as a career and developing world-class talent. If we are serious about nurturing innovation and entrepreneurial skills, should we not consider extending such specialist academies throughout the UK? We need to build on such initiatives and explore a better way of spreading expertise throughout the whole of the FE sector"¦."

Essential Early Progression

It is the Construction and Engineering Manager's belief that the way to inspire future generations of engineers is to hook them in early. Exposing them to the opportunities and career progression available to them, and also to what skills and competencies they will need should garner interest. Specialist academies of excellence will be better equipped to ensure that mathematics and science are put into context, thus inspiring future generations of innovative and entrepreneurial learners. Practical hands-on experience and contextualising learning and theory at an early age would mean a sea change in the way that subjects are taught.

Charles Leigh concluded by saying: "A key challenge for the UK is to highlight the numerous opportunities available in this fast-moving industry. Specialists within the industry anticipate that the 2012 Olympic Games will create 50,000 news jobs in engineering within the next six years and this should encourage fresh talent into the profession. But the clock is ticking against us.

"We have less than six years to achieve this and we must remember that to train up the next generation of young people within engineering will take at least a decade and longer for them to achieve this potential," he continued. "Therefore, we need to start investing in the development of tomorrow's talented innovators and entrepreneurs if we are to maintain our engineering heritage"¦."

Joel Goldman

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