Press release issued 18 March 2013
The UK electronics industry, which is worth over £23 billion per year, employs over 250,000 people in the UK and has a major hub in Bristol and the South West, is at risk because of a lack of students pursuing electronics. Over the last decade there has been a significant decline in the number of UK students taking up the subject at degree level.
Today [Monday 18 March] the University, through the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, hosted the finals of a pilot for an initiative to raise the awareness of the electronics industry among local school students aged 12-14. The 10-week Go4SET project, developed by the UK Electronic Skills Foundation in partnership with the Engineering Development Trust, saw ten teams of six students from across the South West compete to present their vision and prototypes of future technologies.
The teams were sponsored and mentored by industry partners and students studying electronics at the University of Bristol. And proving electronic design touches all aspects of life, students came up with technology for their challenges, which included teaching, sport, school security and entertainment; with electronic netball bibs that change lettering automatically, futuristic ways of watching films and holographic shopping assistants put forward.
Students were invited to learn about electronics from 50 years ago, investigated the role electronics plays in everyday school life and devised smart electronic solutions to problems identified by their schools before predicting what might be possible 5 years into the future.
Professor Andrew Nix, Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “The projects on show today were amazing and really showed us what young people can do with the right level of industrial and academic support.”
Wendy Daniell of UKESF said: “Bristol and the UK have many world-leading firms creating technologies that play vital roles in every aspect of life. But because the electronic components are hidden from sight few people know about the engineering behind them and the exciting career options that exist.
“We’ve created this project to help employers engage with local schools to enthuse and attract the next generation of electronic engineers.”
Chris Ward, EDT regional director EDT said: “It’s important to get students engaged as early as possible to attract more into GCSE and A-level subjects that give them access to rewarding, well-paid careers in an industry that’s crying out for talented people. And to do this, programmes need to stimulate and intrigue them. The ideas that the teams came up with for this pilot just show that this new project succeeds in doing that.”
Despite UCAS data showing a significant rise in demand for engineering and technology courses since 2002, there was a 29 per cent drop in British applicants to electronics engineering courses between 2002 and 2012. The gender gap is also significant with females typically making up less than 8 per cent (one in 12) of applicants.
The Go4SET scheme is designed to raise awareness among younger students in a way that appeals to both males and females. The inaugural UKESF sponsored project saw four mixed teams with four girls-only teams and just two boys-only teams.
The UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) is a collaboration between public bodies, private companies and UK universities. Established in 2010 by co-founders the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), NMI, Semta 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.
Pupils from Badminton School, who took part in the Go4SET pilot project
Image by Stephen Wright
The projects on show today were amazing and really showed us what young people can do with the right level of industrial and academic support.
We’ve created this project to help employers engage with local schools to enthuse and attract the next generation of electronic engineers.