President of Boeing UK and Ireland, Sir Michael Arthur has opened the 2015 STEMtech conference and showcase at the QEII Centre with a keynote speech on the current state of STEM uptake in the UK and the role that industry can play in promoting STEM subjects.
The STEMtech conference and showcase looks at key topics in advancing STEM and technical education in the UK through the collaboration of industry, educators and policy makers.
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Stating that this is one of the most important issues for the UK today in education, society, and the economy, Sir Michael commented: “I speak to you as the head of the UK operation of the largest aerospace company in the world. Engineering is our life blood.
“We are a significant employer of engineers, mathematicians and technicians that make up some 180,000 Boeing employees globally in 65 countries. Boeing is growing rapidly in the UK. We recruit hundreds of people at all job levels each year. We have a great need for engineers, IT technicians and project managers (to name a few) across the country.
“But STEM graduates are valuable to our business not just within engineering roles. A project coordinator with a science background, a communicator with a degree in economics, bring to their careers intellectual curiosity, creativity, innovative thinking and problem solving in a way that some other subject areas do not provide.”
He noted that the aerospace giant sometimes found it difficult to get the people with the necessary knowledge and skill set, adding: “This is not just a Boeing problem. This isn’t even an aerospace problem. This is a nation-wide problem across the whole of the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector – automobile, nuclear, defence and aviation.
“Put bluntly, there are not enough young men and women choosing to study science and maths at school and university. Indeed the number of women entering engineering careers is a major concern.Our country is missing out on many talented women not even considering it as a career. This is a global challenge to the UK. There is serious competition out there, and we are falling behind.”
Sir Michael spoke passionately about the nation’s status as a manufacturing powerhouse: “The UK is the second-largest aerospace manufacturer in the world after the US. And both main political parties are committed to strengthening the aerospace sector in particular.
“Of the top 10 engineering and technology universities in the world, three of them are in the UK – Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London. We have the infrastructure and resources to maintain a high level of STEM participation among our young people.”
But he warned: “The UK produces around 12,000 engineering graduates a year – only 20% of the number of engineers needed to fill the job vacancies in this country. On the other hand, India produces 1.2 million engineering graduates a year. The Philippines, Iran and Mexico all produce more engineers each year than the UK. We cannot afford any complacency in our society in this field.
“The pace of innovation is faster than ever. Recent graduates that enter our company bring with them a level of adaptability and ambition that is unique to generation Z. One difference between a successful manufacturer and a failing one is adaptability – the speed at which new products and services are launched on the market.
“So the demand for innovative thinkers is ever-growing. For Boeing to continue being the best, we need the best people working for us and our suppliers.”