Dr Val: Deal or No Deal – Engineering Style

A new stat this week was re-tweeted by AND that the annual engineering shortfall in recruits is 20,000. I am passionate about my job and am bemused at why the electronics/software industry does not seem to be attractive to many school- leavers. I also often get asked what we can do to up the profile of engineering to attract new recruits and particularly females. I’ve performed at Glastonbury busking on the topic of engineering, I’ve been on ‘guess the job’ panels in schools and of course given talks. So what more can I do?  Whilst thinking ‘outside the box’, I started to consider the TV game ‘Deal or No Deal’ which allows contestants to choose boxes. Could this offer a new way forward?

Inside each box is a job within the electronics/embedded software industry. You don’t know the job until you take the deal, but are given clues about the job and rewards you would get out of it. Money of course will factor into it but what would be the deal maker benefits? Interesting work, ability to impact the way we live, opportunities to meet inspiring people, chance to innovate, involvement in the launch of new products could all feature as clues. Surely when put like that more people would start to ‘get’ what we do.

It seems a peculiar paradox that in a world becoming ever more reliant on electronics and software, the industry appears to struggle to find a way of communicating the magic which enables, say phones, cars or sat navs to work. Maybe however that’s what we engineers like to do, to keep the magic hidden, only allow those in the circle to know and then only if they keep it secret. Can this change? Should it change?

In some ways it is changing. Today’s year seven students, will all have the opportunity to code and undertake simple electronics in school, so surely this will make a difference. However, after canvasing a few year 7-11 students, I am concerned that little will change unless we find a better voice. The situation is also exacerbated by the new rising technology industries such as Fintech and Biotech. These industries will increasingly need similar skills to ours, particularly coding and logic skills.  So whilst there is more education there is also more competition. Re-branding to say EmbedTech is perhaps one way or could we just try to find a new voice through Deal or No-Deal.