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Reversing the 47 per cent decline in UK electronics degree students

16- to 17-year-old school students competed to find who designed the best robot as part of the UKESF summer school

16- to 17-year-old school students competed to find who designed the best robot as part of the UKESF summer school

Press release issued: 14 July 2011

The University of Bristol's Faculty of Engineering hosted the inaugural UKESF summer school [10-14 July], which was established to attract post-16 school students onto electronic engineering degree courses.

The £23 billion per year [1] UK electronics industry is at risk because of a 47 per cent decline (2002-2008 [2], [3]) in those entering the subject at degree level.

In response to industry concerns, the UKESF has established a summer school to help reverse this trend. The five-day course [10 to 14 July] for 16- and 17-year-old school students was run by the University of Bristol's Faculty of Engineering.

Yesterday [Wednesday 13 July] saw the finals of a design and build challenge, where would be scholars competed to create the best-performing two-wheeled balancing robot. The course has revealed that a depth of talent and enthusiasm exists in the next generation of electronics engineers.

Students have also participated in innovation sessions, brainstorming ideas for future products. Further to this they have attended lectures from leading UK researchers and met with inspirational engineers from world leading electronic design companies, including course sponsors ARM, CSR, Dialog Semiconductor and Imagination Technologies.

The UK electronics sector has been described as “indispensable” to Europe’s economic future[4]. To see how electronics is a key enabling technology for scientific research students attended the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Oxford on Tuesday.

The course is being delivered in partnership with the UKESF affiliated universities and the EDT Headstart programme which runs engineering and science taster courses at universities across the UK.

UKESF was founded in 2010 by Semta, NMI, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and industry partners to address the skills pipeline; bringing together the public sector, leading universities and companies.

UKESF also provides industrial scholarships to the most talented students at university, aiming to have 160 new undergraduate scholarships each year, with ten UKESF partner universities and 100 sponsor companies signed up by 2014.

Dr Wendy Daniell, UKESF Manager, said: “The UKESF summer school targets 16- to17-year-old school students who have yet to make their degree choices. The course highlights advanced electronics technologies; it gives an insight into studying the subject at university. It also illustrates the exciting career choice available in the UK and the strength of the industry. Fuelled with inspiration, we hope the majority that attend the course will select electronics degree programmes come September.”

Professor Nick Lieven, Dean of Engineering at the University of Bristol, which hosted the course, added: “We need to attract more of the brightest students to study engineering at universities like Bristol and help prepare them for a vibrant and innovative electronics career. Seeing the students working together and the ideas they’ve come up with throughout the course really highlights how much young talent we have in the UK.”

Tony King-Smith, VP marketing of UK technology company Imagination Technologies, creators of the POWERVR graphics technology and owners of the PURE radio brand, said: “Success comes when we nurture talent at grassroots level and the summer school programme is a significant step in doing this. We believe that it is vital for companies like ourselves to start engaging with students while they are still at school and this is one of the reasons that we are sponsoring the UKESF course. The UK electronics sector is amongst the best in the world but we need to attract the students back into these courses if it is to remain this way.”

Lynn Tomkins, UK Operations Director, Semta, explained: “Our research shows electronics employees each contribute £60,000 in GVA annually. So we are supporting this vital sector to bring in higher level skills.”

Further information

[1] Electronic System Design: A Guide to UK Capability 2009/10 Edition, BERR/UKTI
[2] Engineering and Technology Board, “Engineering UK 2007”, Research Report, Dec 2007 – section 3.9.4
[3] Universities and Colleges Admissions Service data show a continued decline in UK acceptances to 2,689 for 2008
[4] European Commission report on key technologies for the EU’s industrial future

The UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) is a collaboration between public bodies, private companies and UK universities.

Established in 2010 by co-founders Semta, NMI, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and industry partners, UKESF addresses the threat of the rapidly diminishing engineering skills capability in the UK electronics sector. Its principal aim is to help secure a sustainable supply of good quality, industry-ready graduate engineers for the UK electronics industry to maintain and grow its global leadership position.

UKESF is achieving this aim through a sector-specific programme which provides opportunities for employers to engage with young people at school and university through to graduate employment.

The UKESF programme currently focuses on three activities:

· Encouraging electronics employers to engage with schools in order to raise awareness of the sector and the variety of career opportunities it offers;
· Electronics summer schools to attract pre-university school students to degree study and careers in electronic engineering; and
· The UKESF Scholarship Scheme which links undergraduate students with companies for sponsorship and work experience opportunities to encourage their progression into careers within the sector.

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