Front End I News A degree is only the first step in training an engineer
Last month a
number of the UK’s leading electronics business leaders gave their backing to the inaugral UKESF Summer Workshop, the aim of which was to better prepare electronic engineering
graduates for the workplace. Electronic engineering students were handpicked from some of the
UK's leading universities, as UKESF scholars, to meet and learn from industry bosses during a five-day course run by the UK Electronic Skills Foundation at the University of Surrey. The CBI’s Education and Skills survey, published earlier this year, highlighted a severe shortage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates and a lack in workplace experience and employability skills among graduates such as team working, customer awareness and communication. In electronics there has been a dramatic decline in students entering electronic engineering degrees (47% between 2002 and 2008).
The UKESF Summer Workshops will look to undertake professional development sessions to complement academic learning, enabling students to meet with CEOs and senior executives. According to Bill Parsons, executive vice
president human resources, ARM who are backing the scheme "The call for new graduates to be able to hit the ground running when they enter the jobs market is one that has been issued by organisations, such as ARM, in virtually all markets and countries. The UK's electronics industry clearly has a vested interest in the matter and it's no surprise that the UK's electronics leaders are here to support these talented scholars. Indeed, it is imperative that companies are able attract the talent they need to drive development of smart systems, such as digital TVs, tablets and other mobile devices." Neil Tyler, editor of CIE, spoke with Dr
Wendy Daniell, the UKESF’s Manager, about the scheme and the broader problems associated with attracting the ‘right’ engineers to those vacancies that are available.
Neil Tyler: How do you see the UKESF workshop initiative working and what impact is it likely/hoped to have? Do technology based companies need to do more to engage with students, through studentships, bursaries and industry-based training? What skills do graduates lack?
Wendy Daniell:We recognise that a degree programme is only the first step in training an engineer for a career in industry. The UKESF scholarships and associated workshops aim to complement the skills and knowledge that our scholars develop at university so that as graduate engineers they offer higher value to their employers. By introducing them to some of the important business skills they need to develop, our undergraduate scholars will
6 October 2011
have time to cultivate these skills during their work placements with their sponsors and back at university when working with their peers.
Our aim is to help produce well-rounded graduate engineers with some experience of the industry that can “hit the ground running” when they enter employment. Our industry partners recognise that they need to engage with high calibre individuals early for the success of their businesses by raising awareness of the stimulating careers they can offer and the boundless opportunities open to them.
Neil Tyler: Looking beyond the need to train and prepare graduates for the workplace how can industry/universities make it more attractive for students to study science at degree level? How do you think we should look to stem the fall in the number of students taking science degrees?
Wendy Daniell: Industry understands that it has a valuable role to play in demonstrating to young people in schools and universities the relevance of their studies to the real world. We think that by engaging with students at all levels, employers can stimulate and retain their interest in fast moving and innovative technological industries. UKESF is providing a platform for employers to achieve this though a programme of activities such as its Electronics Summer Schools, which help 17 year-old students make informed decisions about their degree and career options, and its scholarship scheme which links employers with talented electronic engineering undergraduates for work experience, industry mentoring and professional skills development. Some of our industry partners have already sponsored our first Summer School in July this year, and their participation really inspired the students that attended about advanced technologies and the career opportunities open to them. In addition, our university partners recognise the importance of the UKESF scholarships to their prospective students, which offer practical work experience and work-related skills development that complement their degree programmes.
The Engineering UK 2011 report shows the total numbers of UK students applying for Science degrees, and Engineering and Technology degrees, has increased over the eight-year period from 2001/02-2008/09, so this is a good news story. What is worrying however is the overall decline, over the same period, in the numbers applying for Electronic and Electrical Engineering degrees and Computer
Components in Electronics
Science degrees, both of which are crucial to hi-tech industries. The dramatic decline in interest in electronics is one of the main reasons that UKESF was established.
Neil Tyler: Is there a serious problem in terms of the level of funding for research that is going into universities and is
that having an impact on attracting students, and are students being put off by tuition fees of nearly £30k?
Wendy Daniell: There is an argument that higher tuition fees will make engineering degrees a more attractive option because of the higher salaries that engineering graduates command and their higher lifetime earnings. “Higher lifetime earnings” is a positive message that can be used to promote the value of engineering degrees. Furthermore, engineering degrees are vocational so young people can see a direct link between the end qualification and a lead into graduate employment.
Neil Tyler: Recent research from the University of Birmingham suggested that around 25 per cent of engineering graduates end up in non-graduate jobs. Are there, in actual fact, too many science graduates for the UK labour market to absorb or do those figures suggest that universities aren't producing students of sufficient quality? According to Professor Emma Smith, who compiled the report: "It is astonishing, in the light of claims of science graduate shortages, that so few new graduates go into related employment. The figures suggest it is not easy or automatic for qualified engineers to get related employment in the UK, despite the purported shortages." Do you agree?
Wendy Daniell: UKESF was established to help reverse the decline in interest in electronic engineering degrees specifically and to attract more of the UK’s brightest talent to the electronics industry. Our industry needs to attract more graduates with higher-level skills to keep the UK at the forefront of innovation. General statements and statistics on “engineering graduates” taken out of context are not helpful, as they do not reflect the particular skills requirements of a specific engineering sector at any given time.
The UKESF is a collaborative initiative between public and private sector organisations, seeking to address the skills pipeline at grassroots level. It supports individuals through a combination of skills workshops, industry-sponsored bursaries, work experience placements and industrial mentoring, which run throughout the UKESF Scholar's university life. The organisation also runs initiatives that seek to increase awareness of the range of careers in the electronics sector among school students and increase the number of UCAS entries.
European EMS: The European Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) Industry is expected to see revenues increase by 6.4% in 2011 and reach Euro 27.7 billion, according to new statistics from Reed Electronics Research. However, there will continue to be marked difference between Western Europe, where growth is forecast to be just 2.7% and the low cost countries in Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa where growth is expected to top 9.0%.
After a strong rebound in 2010 growth has slowed this year and with the outlook for the global economy being downgraded this is expected to continue through to the end of the year and at least into the first half of 2012. The shift of electronic production from Western Europe to Central & Eastern Europe which has accelerated in the last two years is expected to continue with the region expected to account for more than 60% of all European electronic production by 2015.
Market value: For the first time since 1996 IBM's market value has exceeded that of Microsoft. At the end of September IBM was valued at £137.4bn, slightly ahead of Microsoft’s valuation of £136.8bn. The growth means IBM is now the second largest technology company by market value after Apple which still holds the top slot with a value of £232bn. Analysts are attributing IBM’s success to its decision to sell off its PC business to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo in 2005 in order to concentrate on software and services.
Job losses: Nokia has announced over 3500 job cuts and is to close a plant in Romania as part of its ongoing restructuring plan. The losses come in addition to thousands of jobs lost back in April as part of a Euro 1bn cost-cutting programme. The plant to be closed in Cluj, Romania, is part of Nokia’s location division. Nokia said it was also reviewing the future of plants in Finland, Hungary and Mexico.
Nokia said that the company would look to "focus its feature phone manufacturing on those locations with optimal proximity to suppliers and key markets". Some analysts suggest this as a signal that Nokia could be looking to shift manufacturing to Asia.
New release: AdaCore has announced the upcoming release of GNAT Progamming Studio (GPS) 5.1. This new major version of AdaCore’s graphical Integrated Development Environment (IDE), will be available in October, and offers extended feature support for C and C++, improved integration with Codepeer (automated code reviewer and validator), more powerful source editing, and enhanced GUI performance. GPS is provided with GNAT Pro on most platforms, for both native and embedded software development.
Environment: Premier Farnell has been accepted as a member of the European Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). The accolade provides recognition of the success of the company’s comprehensive sustainability strategy, its enhanced Trust Agenda, and the importance it places on environmental performance across its global operations. The European DJSI recognises European companies that meet the high sustainability standards of the US- based Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the assessment, Premier Farnell achieved high scores for its environmental performance and reporting; which includes energy efficiency enhancements taking place across its facilities worldwide. Scores achieved in almost all other areas were significantly above the sector averages.
3D: A new study has found that the use of 3D in the classroom can improve test results by as much as 17 per cent. Schools are using 3D projectors and learning resources to aid teaching and the study, which was conducted in seven schools across Europe, found that 3D-enabled learning tools helped children concentrate more. It also led shy children to speak up more in class discussions. Only a handful of schools in the UK use the technology, which requires a 3D-enabled projector as well as 3D glasses for all pupils and a set of bespoke learning resources. The study, conducted by researchers from the International Research Agency on behalf of Texas Instruments, assessed 740 students in schools across France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, the UK and Sweden. The study found that 86% of pupils in 3D classrooms improved in test results, compared to 52% of children using traditional teaching methods and that attention levels soared - with 92% of the class paying attention during 3D lessons compared to 46% in the traditional learning environment.
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