Nicholas Field, Engineering Student at the University of St. Andrews

From building skyscrapers, to developing renewable energy technologies and producing confectionery delights for people to enjoy around the world, engineers are working hard behind the scenes to create, make and innovate for today and the future.

COVID-19 has, however, shone a much-needed spotlight on the talented engineers, scientists and mathematicians helping solve the big challenges and make a difference in society. Inspiring the next generation of engineering leaders is key to a brighter future yet currently there is a significant skills gap in the industry with an annual shortfall of 124,000 engineers. Part of the challenge is that many young people do not have access to opportunities where they can experience engineering for themselves.

Children’s STEM educational charity, The Smallpeice Trust, has created a summer programme of virtual engineering courses to engage young people with the dynamic world of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and help develop their practical skills and knowledge.

Here, Nicholas Field, Arkwright Engineering Scholar and The Smallpeice Trust engineering courses alumni, shares how getting hands-on with engineering expanded his understanding of the industry:

Engineering: more than meets the eye

If you were to ask someone what they think of when they hear the word ‘engineer’, most people would imagine someone who builds and fixes things, which in some cases is true. Take, for example, the mechanical engineers building world-class planes for the RAF or designing more efficient aero engines at Rolls-Royce. Originally, I had also thought that engineering was just about construction, making cogs turn and things fly. However, there is far more to engineering than meets the eye.

This past year we have all seen the power of STEM in action, helping combat the challenges posed by COVID-19 and re-build the country for a brighter future. As a result, a recent study by Thales UK found that one third of children surveyed had been inspired to explore careers in STEM, after seeing the incredible impact of scientific innovation during this period. However, a significant obstacle remains – that many children and young people still don’t know enough about what a career in STEM actually involves, or worse, they see it as a job which is inaccessible to them.

EngineeringUK found that just 24 per cent of young people knew “a lot or quite a lot” about what engineers actually do. The same Thales UK study saw 28 per cent of respondents report a lack of role models as preventing them from considering STEM as a career, while 21 per cent cite STEM as too hard or difficult to do well in academically. With an annual shortfall of 124,000 engineers in the industry, it’s clear these misconceptions, and lack of opportunities for young people to experience the real world of engineering are preventing many from pursuing their passions and realising their full potential in STEM careers.

The wonderful world of engineering

Growing up, I was always interested in making things - from constructing transistor radios to making model cars with my friends. This hobby developed into more of a passion at school when I got to put my skills to the test in Design and Technology class, exploring new subjects such as woodwork and 3D printing and even joining my school’s Engineering Society.

It was here that my teacher suggested I try The Smallpeice Trust’s Engineering Experience residential course, to learn more about engineering and see first-hand its real-world applications through fun, practical activities. This sparked my interest in different areas of engineering I hadn’t considered before, like nuclear engineering. The Smallpeice Trust had courses spanning all the engineering specialisms, including these new subjects I was curious to learn more about.

Prior to the pandemic, I attended The Smallpeice Trust Nuclear Engineering course held at Lancaster University and The Smallpeice Trust Astrophysics at Royal Holloway, University of London which was a brilliant opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills and meet like-minded people also interested in engineering.

Before, I had only been interested in aerospace engineering However, during the courses, I discovered how much chemistry is involved in the field which ignited my interest in nuclear engineering. I still remember the moment a professor at Lancaster University passed around Uranium-coated glass, so that we could see it illuminated, and thinking how cool this was!

As a result, I applied for The Smallpeice Trust Arkwright Engineering Scholarship to learn more about nuclear engineering, and particularly benefit from professional mentorship and careers guidance. I got to see the science at work on-site and speak with experts in the field, from the Nuclear AMRC in Sheffield to the Mondelez factory in Birmingham, where Cadbury chocolate is made. Seeing the food processing factories showed me just how interdisciplinary the industry is, from chemistry to mathematics; each element has a role to play in engineering.

Furthermore, it was inspiring to meet fellow Arkwright Engineering scholars from all parts of the country who each had their own areas of interest. This certainly influenced my decision to study Chemistry at university and explore further how the different science and engineering disciplines intersect, to help me determine which specialism I may wish to explore as a future career.

Real-world STEM learning

Creating more real-world learning opportunities, for students to experience engineering in action, is the key to dispelling the myths and stereotypes that exist around STEM, and inspiring the next generation of engineering innovators.  From my own experience, attending The Smallpeice Trust engineering courses challenged my thinking around engineering and helped me to specialise my interests further.

The Smallpeice Trust programmes are very hands-on and collaborative, which allow you to develop your critical thinking, problem solving and team working skills.  All courses aim for at least 50 per cent girls, and there are engineering courses exclusively for female students, to help inspire more girls into the field and make the experience more inclusive for everyone, which is so important.

The great thing about extracurricular learning opportunities is that you get more variety in the teaching and learning, compared to what you might receive in a STEM lesson in school.  Learning more about engineering through practical courses opened my eyes to the diversity of career pathways available, and all the disciplines involved which make engineering such a dynamic and exciting field.

Engineers are helping solve the big social and economic problems we face in every day, but often this work is behind the scenes.  It’s time to put the spotlight on engineering and equip young people with the skills and confidence to explore the industry and see how they can help make a difference. 

Nicholas Field, Engineering Student at the University of St. Andrews

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 1 hour

Recognising and supporting learners who are at risk of, or...

Overview This webinar is intended to explain the nature of harm and abuse caused to learners who may be at risk of, or have experienced sexual...

  • Wednesday, 06 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page