My latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times
The eagle eyed amongst you will remember that just before Christmas 2015 I announced the idea of bringing together local manufacturing companies with Wiltshire schools to inspire the next generation of designers and engineers. This week, thanks to a huge amount of hard work from the organising team, local companies, schools and Chippenham’s Olympiad Leisure Centre the inaugural Festival of Engineering became a spectacular reality.
Over 1400 young people came to experience the excitement, challenge and enjoyment that engineering can provide. I am sure that by enthusing these young people from an early age and challenging the stereotypes that surround STEM careers, together, we can inspire them to develop an interest in science, technology and engineering.
An additional aim of the Festival was to showcase the diversity of local manufacturing, engineering and design companies and to highlight Wiltshire as a centre for this sector – a sector which is so vital to our national economy. Engineering is behind everything – from the train we travel in to the seats we sit on, the energy we use and the shoes on our feet – these all products which are designed here in Wiltshire.
Engineering plays a big part in an exciting range of businesses and industries, including; space, transport, medicine, technology, food, fashion, construction and much more. It was a an absolute pleasure to see the satisfaction on the students faces as they made electric cars, testing Dyson’s world leading hair driers and drove ‘Bridget’ Airbus’ Mars Rover craft, during interactive workshops. I have spoken many times about the gap between what businesses are looking for from employees and what schools are producing from students. There is a growing skills gap and I hope that the Festival can begin to find a way of plugging the skills gap in Wiltshire and ensuring that local businesses thrive in the future.
What the young people learned is that with engineering you can work in almost every setting – in offices, laboratories, recording studios, hospitals, in the air, underground, outdoors and at sea. You can follow your interests – if sport is your thing, you can work as an engineer improving the performance of new tennis rackets. If you want to make a difference to people’s lives, you can help develop artificial limbs or work in a team to help rebuild a community following a natural disaster.
The businesses were inspiring and the enthusiasm shown by the young people was energising. With very positive feedback so far, I am determined to build upon the success of the Festival of Engineering and plan to make it an annual event. For more information about the Festival of Engineering visit festivalofengineering.com.