Err, no, no they won\’t

One in five young people will need to become an engineer if the UK has any chance of addressing severe skills shortages and rebalancing the economy towards advanced manufacturing, new research has warned.

This is complete nonsense. Manufacturing is some 12 or 13% of the entire global economy.

The idea that we want to put 20% of our bright young things into something that is only 12% of the global economy, only 12% (ish) of the UK economy is just nonsense.

For if we did do that then by definition they\’d all be pretty low productivity, wouldn\’t they?

The Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts that the engineering profession needs 104,000 STEM graduates a year between now and 2020, but there are only 82,000 UK domiciled STEM graduates a year. Of those, just 64,000 end up going into engineering, meaning 40,000 extra graduates are needed annually.

And we know how to change this, don\’t we matey?

Get your member companies to raise the amount they pay engineers.

Hmm, what\’s that? You can\’t afford to do that? Then clearly people are more productive in other areas of the economy then, aren\’t they?

16 thoughts on “Err, no, no they won\’t”

  1. Also presumes people WANT to become engineers. Aptitude, qualifications etc suitable for doing an engineering course.
    I really enjoyed my degree. But was not in engineering – which while I do have an interest in the subject I’d have hated doing a degree in it.

  2. ‘Then clearly people are more productive in other areas of the economy then, aren’t they?’

    Yes, unless other sectors of the economy who do syphon off engineers, many of whom i think go into City finance, pay according to temporary ‘accounting’ profits rather than underlying enduring economic value created. So a false market.

    I realise that sounds like something Smurphy might write, but I dont think that he would and it doesn’t make it wrong!

  3. But on reflection, is it such a bad idea?
    If you’re going to send kids to university, engineering’s about the best subject to teach ’em. It’s reality based. Think about how much better the world would be without all those graduates in the arts, law, environmental ‘science’ & most importantly & definitely those studying for Politics, Philosophy & Economics. The calamitous PPE.

  4. @Tim: Does your web server have something against me?

    Let’s try again:

    @Mark: this distinction you make between “temporary ‘accounting’ profits rather than underlying enduring economic value created” sounds exactly like something the Smurphster would say. How are you distinguishing between the two?

    @bloke in spainp: “The calamitous PPE.” You are Ian B and I claim my five pounds.

  5. Tim: why are you using ‘manufacturing’ here? Dunno what segmentation you’re using, but engineers are also rather important for energy, construction, and whichever bucket software and IT services fall into in the relevant segmentation.

    Mark/SJ: if a bank generates profits of gbp1bn a year for nine years, then loses gbp100bn in year 10, then the gbp1bn was effectively fake. This is likely one of the reasons why the UK recovery is looking so slow, because some of the money was never really there.

    BiS: I wouldn’t go that far. Engineers have a tendency to look at the world as a set of simple and solvable problems. Which can often be helpful, but can also often be absolutely fucking disastrous (one group of people who see the world in this way are terrorists, among whom engineers are massively overrepresented). A mixture of people who understand theory and people who’re focused on practice is optimal for any organisation.

  6. James Dyson said something similar in the Telegraph a few months ago, and the response was exactly the same.

    When engineering salaries (for actually doing tech stuff) start rising, I’ll believe in this ‘shortage’. Otherwise, we’ll, aren”t prices and salaries meant to be signals?

  7. As an Engineer, I have to agree with john b.

    Engineers at their worst can be very insistent on looking for perfect solutions to non engineering problems.

    At our best we are very practical problem solvers. But to measure up any group of people by their best or worst representatives is unhelpful and in many areas rather frowned upon.

  8. For my sins I get sent by my employer to some of these “STEM” promotion events. Sadly someone in the government has set various organisations targets in increasing the numbers of graduate engineers and they are going to do this despite what they are told by people who work in the field.

    Actually you are only scratching the surface of this there are also organisations working to increase the numbers of women in STEM. Google “Athena Swan” for a small taste of the utter bollocks.

    Talking of engineers as terrorists , a couple of years ago I was shown a display of defused IEDs made by the Irish and Islamics. My fellow electronic engineers were horrified by the horrific build quality of the things. If engineers are becoming terrorists then it isn’t the good ones 🙂

  9. @Simon

    ‘How are you distinguishing between the two?”

    As others have indicated rules such as mark to market allow you to book a profit on a position that is still open, and pay the profits out in salaries and bonuses. If this and enough other such trades then go pear shaped such that the banks threaten systemic risk, the losses are socialised on to the tax payer.

    So there is a difference between accounting profit and true economic value.

  10. Depends on your definition of ‘Engineer’. In the UK where the guy that installs your telephone or Sky dish is called an engineer, maybe correct. However, if you go the German route, where an Engineer is a specific title coupled to specific qualifications, maybe the numbers are overstated.

    We need innovators. Engineers are not necessarily innovators. Thomas Edison famously said: if I have to calculate something I call for an engineer, otherwise I do the thinking!

  11. Crumble: well yes, that would figure. Good engineers won’t be so pissed off with the world, and are more likely to have a job that keeps them occupied.

    TJGM: The UK data also refers to people with engineering qualifications. Hence the use of “STEM graduates” in the piece and this thread. Only in marketing bollocks, not in any UK statistical classifications, are non-graduate technicians referred to as ‘engineers’.

  12. Crumble, you say:

    My fellow electronic engineers were horrified by the horrific build quality of the things. If engineers are becoming terrorists then it isn’t the good ones.

    I am afraid that you are looking at this like an engineer, not an effective terrorist. In a device that you intend to use again and again, build quality is a desirable quality, subject to price. In a device that you intend to use only once, it is not very important. Even if build quality had some impact on effectiveness, an effective terrorist might well prefer large numbers of dodgy devices to one perfect one.

    John B, thanks for a fascinating link. I am not sure what the moral is. Maybe that it is dangerous to turn out loads of graduates with expensive but unwanted vocational degrees. Liberal arts graduates have no expectation of any particular job, and are grateful to be employed at all.

  13. Luke, you’re right. A terrorist doesn’t even need to produce a working bomb. Just the threat of it is good enough. The point is to create terror, not necessarily to cause death and destruction.

  14. Serf, as an engineer myself, in software, I do agree. A lot of other engineers I’ve come across do tend towards the solving of non existent problems with fantastic solutions that aren’t really practicable or necessary.

  15. Quote: Serf, as an engineer myself, in software, I do agree. :Unquote

    When did we start to engineer software?!?!?

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