No room for dinosaurs in engineering

17th April 2009 at 01:00

How do you interest pupils in engineering as a career? How do you persuade them that Scottish engineering is anything but dead? The answer lies in inviting Peter Hughes, chief executive of Scottish Engineering, to the school - probably the most inspiring man to visit a classroom with a mandolin.

As part of his Engineering Roadshow, Dr Hughes has spoken to more than 60,000 pupils throughout Scotland, visiting schools explaining the importance of engineering, highlighting how big a part of the Scottish economy it still is, and illustrating his point with engineering products such as a set of bowls, and a selection of string instruments.

Whether the instruments are there to explain how much engineering is required to make them, or as an excuse for Dr Hughes to sing the students a merry song, is debateable, but he certainly holds their attention.

Speaking at last month's Enterprise Careers conference at Strathclyde University, Dr Hughes emphasised the importance of engineering. "If it wasn't for engineering, we would be living in caves," he said. "And contradictory to popular belief, we do manufacture a lot in Scotland."

Citing examples such as black cabs, and a set of bowls with Scotland dominating 60 per cent of the market, he explained that Scottish exports are worth Pounds 15 billion per annum, Pounds 9 billion of which is engineering.

Through the roadshows, Scottish Engineering hopes to build up an interest in the sector at a time when popular belief is that Scottish manufacturing is a thing of the past. Dr Hughes motivates the students with examples of the variety of the industry, telling them to be the best they can be, and that for all students there is something out there they are good at.

He also leaves teachers with food for thought. "Keep dinosaurs out of schools," he advises. The dinosaurs he refers to are not necessarily old, but their thinking, and their actions are - a criticism which cannot be applied to Dr Hughes.

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