Penny Cottee on a scheme to encourage young people to think of engineering as a career
When 13-year-old Tim Angliss attended a short course exploring the rudiments of engineering, he wasn't expecting it to have such an impact on his life. But now, as an upper-sixth former at Bristol Grammar School, his goal is to study physics at Cambridge and become a scientific and engineering consultant.
Looking back, Tim identifies that Year 9 course as a turning point: "It opened my eyes to engineering as a career. I had been considering it, because I've always liked technology and physics, but my first serious interest began during that course."
Tim attended four engineering courses run by the Smallpeice Trust, which encourages young people to become engineers.
The trust's public relations officer, Angela Lilley, says: "Through fun, hands-on exercises and informative seminars, we aim to get young people involved in the excitement of engineering, and to show them the diversity of career paths that exist."
Founded by Dr Cosby Smallpeice (1896-1977), a self-taught engineer who invented a lathe, the trust provides courses for students, and conferences and seminars for teachers.
The four-day residential courses, started in the 1980s, are held in the summer at Southampton and Plymouth universities. Attracting students from across the UK, the six courses cover everything from the nuts and bolts of engineering to business and management skills.
Angela Lilley says: "We begin with practical skills for younger children, and judging by the noise, every Year 9 group thoroughly enjoys the buggy building project."
The students work with graduate engineers who set them puzzles based on problems they face in their companies, which range from multi-nationals to specialists.
Angela Lilley says: "As well as the engineering bodies, organisations including Corus, GCHQ, the Royal Navy and Rolls-Royce work with us to give real insight into career paths and opportunities.
"Careers workshops for older students provide broad options including GNVQs and modern apprenticeships, as not everyone wants to go to university."
An engineer must not only have excellent technological skills, but also be a rounded character.
Angela Lilley says: "Employers are looking for team-building, project management and people skills too. The length, team structure, and the social aspect of our courses are designed to introduce students to these areas."
Teachers are invited to accompany their pupils and help supervise them during the courses. Benefits include pound;200 in gift vouchers, expenses, and contact with other teachers and industry. Staff wishing to assess courses for future pupils are also welcome.
John Halton, business and industry director for the Engineering and Technology Board, says: "Massive skills shortages mean a huge demand for engineers. The truth is that without these valuable people, industry cannot function."
It's certainly a concern shared by the Smallpeice Trust, which through its courses continues its founder's philosophy that engineering always will be an important part of the UK economy.
2003 programme: engineering experience (Year 9S2) April 22-25, Sheffield University; engineering skills and careers (Year 10S3) June 30-July 3; engineering management (Year 11S4) July 7-10; marine technology experience (Year 9 and 10S2 and S3) July 14-17; engineering business skills (Year 12S5) July 21-24; electronic engineering (Year 10S3) July 21-24.Courses cost between pound;95-pound;145.The Smallpeice Trust Tel: 01926 333200www.smallpeicetrust.org.uk