CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 470-i

HOUSE OF COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE

INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES, SCIENCE AND SKILLS COMMITTEE

 

 

ENGINEERING

 

 

WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 2008

MISS RACHAEL MENSAH, MR OYENUGA ABIOYE, MR LE'VAL HAUGHTON-JONES, MR LAKIN, MISS REID, MR JOSH SIMPSON and MR MARTIN

 

LORD BROWNE OF MADINGLEY, MR NORMAN HASTE

and PROFESSOR MICHAEL KELLY

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 132

 

 

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

1.

This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2.

The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

 


Oral Evidence

Taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee

on Wednesday 30 April 2008

Members present

Mr Phil Willis, in the Chair

Mr Tim Boswell

Mr Ian Cawsey

Dr Ian Gibson

Dr Brian Iddon

Ian Stewart

Dr Desmond Turner

________________

 

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Miss Rachael Mensah, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, Year 9, Miss Shorna-Kay Reid, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, Year 9, Mr Oyenuga Abioye, 3rd Year, Architecture student, London South Bank University,  Mr Le'val Haughton-James, Year in Industry Student, Royal Academy of Engineering/London Engineering Project, Mr Josh Simpson, Ranelagh School, Year 12, Mr David Lakin, Young Engineers Field Worker, Mr Chris Martin, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College, London, PhD student, gave evidence.

Q1 Chairman: May I welcome our first panel of witnesses to this the first oral evidence session on the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on Engineering. This is the first major inquiry of this Committee and can I say how privileged we are to have such a distinguished panel of young engineers with us today. We have Miss Rachael Mensah, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, in Year 9; Miss Miss Reid, again of St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, Year 9; Mr Oyenuga Abioye - I understand you like to be called Abi - a 3rd Year Architecture student from London South Bank University; Mr Mr Haughton-James, a Year in Industry student sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the London Engineering Project; Mr Josh Simpson from the Ranelagh School, in Year 12; Mr Lakin, Young Engineers field worker, who will be the chairman of our panel today - you do not get any extra pay but if you want to field a question, then field it down; and Mr Mr Martin from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a PhD student at Imperial College, London. Thank you very much for coming, Chris. Could I start with you, Rachel. Is this your first time in the House of Commons?

Miss Mensah: Yes.

Q2 Chairman: Well, it will not be your last. Now, you are at school in London; we have two of the greatest football teams in Arsenal and Chelsea; we have Amy Winehouse, one of the great - arguably - singers of our time; Grand Theft Auto IV, was introduced this week. Why on earth do you want to support engineering, rather than go with the normal team culture? You might be doing that as well, but why engineering, what is the attraction for you?

Miss Mensah: I enjoy it. It involves hard work and thinking and challenges and I enjoy those sorts of things. It encourages me to extend my mind so that instead of doing everyday things; engineering can explore different fields. Engineering includes maths, physics and other subjects and I enjoy it and it just involves hard work really.

Q3 Chairman: Do you have engineers in your family?

Miss Mensah: No.

Q4 Chairman: So, it is not dad saying, "you must be an engineer".

Miss Mensah: No.

Q5 Chairman: What about you, Shorna-Kay, what is the attraction for you?

Miss Reid: Basically, the same things as Rachel. I like challenges; it helps to train the mind to think rather than stay inside the box.

Q6 Chairman: Right. What do engineers do?

Mr Abioye: Engineers are creative people; they do imagine things and bring it to normal life. They are more technical based people; they imagine things; they view things; they create things and make them usable for people.

Q7 Chairman: What a fantastic answer. Josh, what is the attraction of engineering for you?

Mr Simpson: I think it is the same sort of argument, that it is a challenge. It differentiates from science and maths because once you have done that challenge, you have something to show for your hard work; you have created something that is good. That is one of the important things.

Q8 Chairman: Le'val, what is the excitement for you? What is the satisfaction do you think in wanting to become an engineer?

Mr Haughton-James: You get to achieve things in building, design and creation. Not just write your design on paper but to actually build it and say "Yes, I have achieved something; everybody enjoys my creation and anyone can use it". So, engineering is really for everyone.

Q9 Chairman: David, you meet many young engineers, as a field worker, do you work for Year in Industry as well? Do you have you any involvement with that?

Mr Lakin: I work with Year in Industry, yes.

Q10 Chairman: Right, so that is your umbrella body. Why did you want to come into this field?

Mr Lakin: My background is engineering - production engineering for Caterpillar for ten years. For me, I wanted to encourage others to take up engineering because the perception of engineering is so bad at the moment that seeing it first hand in industry, where people are coming up to retirement, but nobody fresh is coming up through the ranks to take up these positions, it is a problem. Working with young people, they are the most creative people that you could ever work with; their ideas, their suggestions, etc., it is amazing. The problem is that once they have got these ideas they are not developed from there at schools. Careers advisers and teachers do not necessarily push kids into engineering, mainly because they do not have the right perception of engineering themselves. Those who have an interest in engineering, science and maths, it then gets wasted because they get pushed into other areas. Parents also have the wrong perception. It is parents who influence the children's decisions in what careers to go into and what subjects to take at school, so if they have the wrong perception, they are going to deflect the youngsters into something else. For me, taking up this position, it gives me the opportunity to work with parents, schools and kids to change their perception of what engineering is; show them that it is an excellent career to go into and that they can make a difference; engineers can save the world, engineers can make a big difference to everybody's life, and without engineers we would not be where we are today.

Q11 Chairman: If it is such a powerful message though, why are more people not doing it?

Mr Lakin: People, especially young people, see engineering as a smelly, dirty, factory job. It is as simple as that. We did focus groups with a number of young people and said, "Could you tell me what an engineer is?" Their answer was, "Oh, it's like Gary from East Enders" - a mechanic, who wears overalls and gets his hands dirty, and that is it. For many people, they do not want to go into that; they want to wear a suit to go to work; they want to sit in an office and that is fair enough. We are trying to show them that it is a type of engineering but there are many other different types of engineering, for example, when I was a production engineer for Caterpillar, I went to work in a suit and worked in an office and used computer-aided systems, etc. So it is trying to show that you can do all things and you can make a difference; you can come up with an idea that can change things.

Q12 Chairman: Chris, you are a PhD student at one of the world's leading universities, with a wonderful record in terms of engineering, yet most of the students that you did your undergraduate work with, if they were engineering students, have gone off to do something else, so it cannot be that attractive. What is the message that this Committee should be taking forward from you?

Mr Martin: I personally came into it from geology, I did not do an engineering degree because I was not aware what engineering was when I was at school, so I chose a broad science degree, and then somewhat drifted into engineering once I had done that and then wondered what I could apply this to. So, I stumbled upon engineering later in life.

Q13 Chairman: You must be the exception, Chris.

Mr Martin: That is right, yes. Most of my peer group at university that did engineering, most of them were swallowed up by the City, they moved into finance, accounting, or became lawyers, because of the attractive salaries.

Q14 Chairman: So, it is about salaries, really.

Mr Martin: That certainly does play a role. Obviously, engineering students are very bright, they have got very good transferable skills, are very good communicators, project management is a key part of engineering and those skills are readily transferable into other industries.

Q15 Ian Stewart: Rachel, what type of career in engineering do you see yourself going into? Any particular aspect of engineering?

Miss Mensah: I like the idea of architecture, building and construction and design. I am more into the ideas and creation rather than the actual building. I like to think up new ideas; maybe inventions.

Q16 Ian Stewart: Very good. Josh, could I ask you the same question, please.

Mr Simpson: For me, it is planes, cars, things that go fast - Formula One engineering always looks very exciting; building new planes that are more environmentally friendly, etc., is what I would like to go into because I think it is exciting.

Q17 Ian Stewart: Thank you for that. Le'val, why do you think engineering is important?

Mr Haughton-James: Without engineering, half of us would not be here right now, e.g., cars, trains, transport. It is useful in everyday life and if we get more engineers we can make life easier and much better. It is an actual fulfilment inside you to know that you helped to design and build trains.

Q18 Ian Stewart: So what do you see yourself doing in 20 years' time?

Mr Haughton-James: Just leaving university with a civil engineering degree.

Q19 Chairman: If you had the choice, Le'val, between earning 30,000 as a civil engineer and 50,000 in the City as a banker, which would you choose?

Mr Haughton-James: Civil engineer.

Q20 Chairman: 100,000?

Mr Haughton-James: But with engineering you do not stay at 30,000 a year; you can go up depending on your qualifications. I know, personally, that if I wanted to earn more money I would train harder.

Q21 Dr Gibson: Do you know anyone who has started doing engineering, got fed up with it and did something else, not necessarily finance. Have you met anybody like that?

Mr Haughton-James: I have not actually met anyone in person, but I have heard stories about it. I can understand the reasons why they would drop out of engineering because it is not an easy job, but if you have, not to say the talent, but the desire to do it, then it is easy and fulfilling.

Q22 Ian Stewart: David, did you do a five-year apprenticeship?

Mr Lakin: I did, yes.

Q23 Ian Stewart: Good. So why did you leave engineering?

Mr Lakin: First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed my position at Caterpillar as product engineer, it was very rewarding. One day we had an open house for a local school and we took them round and showed them different parts of the company and what our position was, etc. The perception from the beginning of the day to the end of the day was completely different. At the beginning of the day it was very much, "Oh, I don't know why we're here, this is boring and smelly", to the end of the day being, "Oh, I didn't realise that engineers did that; I didn't realise that was a type of engineering".

Q24 Ian Stewart: What would have persuaded you to continue to follow a professional career in engineering?

Mr Lakin: Nothing, because I would still go back into that. I stepped out of engineering to do this because of a personal buzz of changing people's perception and encouraging them to go into engineering, but I would step back into engineering, back into production, because I have a passion for engineering and I do love it.

Q25 Chairman: Josh, very quickly, who is your engineering hero?

Mr Simpson: I am not sure. I think that is one of the problems with engineering; you do not hear about engineering in the media, so it is difficult for young people to relate to a particular person.

Q26 Chairman: Does anybody else have a hero?

Mr Martin: Someone like Brunel, but obviously that is very easy. It was a long time ago and is my next point; it was the Victorian era and is ancient.

Q27 Chairman: We regard Dr Ian Gibson as our hero. You are all looking blank now; is there a 21st century engineering hero?

Mr Lakin: Touching on what Josh has said that everyone has heroes like people who have developed transport and motor sport racing, and so on, but you do not know the names of the engineers because they are not celebrated.

Q28 Mr Boswell: Is the teamwork important in this? I have to admit to Josh that I am MP for Silverstone, among other things, and am fairly close to the F1 industry. There, you may have a technical director but you do not necessarily have one engineer who is going to design your F1 car. Is the counterpart to the fact that you do not have heroes that you, on the whole, are quite happy to work in teams to produce something?

Mr Lakin: I think so, yes. It is very rare that you have one engineer who does everything to create and come up with the initial design or idea, but then it is a team of engineers that takes it forward, so it is very hard to have one single person. To rephrase the question, the heroes would be, say, the Ferrari racing team or something like that.

Q29 Chairman: If I asked you who Norman Haste was, would you be able to tell me, Abi?

Mr Abioye: No.

Chairman: Never heard of him? Right. He is sitting behind you!

Q30 Dr Turner: In Germany, things are very different. There, engineers enjoy the same social status as doctors, lawyers and other professions. It is sadly not the case in Britain, except for those who are wise enough to see it. The exposure that kids get at school is obviously playing a part in this. I would like to have a sample of your experience of what impression you got of engineering that was attributable to the school; something that could perhaps make up for the fact that there are no glamorous TV series starring Amanda Burton advertising your subject. Engineering does not have any of that, there are no sexy soaps about engineers. What are your experiences as far as the school is concerned in providing an impression of engineering as a career? Perhaps we can start with you, Josh.

Mr Simpson: That is a very good point because you obviously have maths and science at school and technology and they never really come together to form engineering at school. At my school, we took part in a formal schools challenge and I think three students out of our year did that, so that was not a widespread thing. One of my friends who is also doing maths and physics at A-level. I said to him, "Why don't you go into engineering?" And he said, "Yes, but I don't like engines". You laugh at that, but it shows how much it is not expressed in schools what engineering is.

Q31 Dr Turner: But why should that be problem? At school, if someone is going to be a doctor, they do not study medicine at school, they study the appropriate A-levels - biology, physics and chemistry - that prepare them for a medical course; they do not do medicine, they just know it is there. So, why do you think this is not true of engineering? What about the other people who are still in school, Rachael and Shorna-Kay, what is your view? What does your school tell you about engineering?

Miss Mensah: It is not the whole school. I was introduced to engineering by my technology teacher. He said he was going to start an engineering club and if I was interested I could come along. So, I went along and he started with little projects such as building a bridge, building a buggy racing car. That is when the school decided that they were going to go on the London Engineering trip to the Tower of London for a trebuchet competition, so the whole of Year 9 went. That was when engineers club really took off because that is when my friends began to realise what engineering was about when they went to that.

Q32 Dr Turner: So your school made an effort to promote engineering but how general is this in the school experience of all of you?

Mr Martin: Not very. I am talking about 15 years ago when I was going through school and choosing degrees and A-levels but I certainly was not made aware of engineering as a careers option. Going back to the points that the other members of the panel have raised already, that sciences are taught by science teachers who have done science degrees, there is no one who has actually done engineering because they are all working in practice. So students are not made aware that this whole career is out there.

Q33 Dr Turner: So we have a real problem at the school level?

Mr Lakin: From what I can tell working with a number of schools through the London Engineering Project - we work with 15 secondary and 25 primary schools - is that if you have a member of staff at the school, nine times out of ten, a technology teacher or a head of science, they are interested in engineering and are willing to give up their time to set up an engineering club or take the kids out on visits to be involved in something like the London Engineering Project and to get involved in competitions and challenges. That is where the students then see engineering and that is where they get involved. Take Josh, for example; his teacher entered him into the Young Engineer for Britain competition where he was a regional winner and then came on to the national final. As the girls mentioned, they have a young engineers club in the school that was set up by their teacher. The school, on the whole, will not do much but if there is an individual in the school who is willing to do things, then that is where the kids see it. Unfortunately, the teachers do not get rewarded for that, they have to give up their own time and stay after school to run these clubs and they do not normally get incentives to do that, so it is a personal thing.

Q34 Dr Turner: Can you see a way through that?

Mr Lakin: Personally, I would like to see the schools offering incentives for teachers to do things like that and more dedication for them to have a club that it is a must rather than just an option, and to go on more trips and take part in more competitions and challenges.

Q35 Dr Turner: I would like to ask all of you what your feelings are about the best academic preparation for an engineering course. Did you all, for instance, do double or triple science GCSEs? Did you do design and technology or computing? How relevant do you think these were (a) to switching on your interest in engineering and (b) what do you think of them as a preparation for a career in engineering?

Mr Haughton-James: At GSCE level, I did double science and IT, but I dropped technology because I was not interested in it in school, but it gives you that introduction to the skill which you can take on and then expand further. In school, they do not relate it to engineering so you do not realise you are doing engineering until you hear about it from somewhere else.

Q36 Dr Turner: There is going to be a new course introduced into schools later this year - a diploma in engineering. How useful do you think this is going to be? It is a foundation diploma, from 14-16; it can go to a higher diploma, up to 18. Do you think this is a good preparation, for instance, if you were going to go on to an engineering degree? I am not an engineer, but I know many engineers and I know that they start with a solid background in physics and maths as the absolute academic foundation of engineering. Do you think a diploma could possibly weaken the academic foundation, but that may be countered by engendering greater interest, so that in the end the benefits of generating greater interest might outweigh the weakening of the academic foundation?

Mr Lakin: I am involved in the Engineering diploma with the Royal Academy of Engineering so I know what it is all about. My view is that it is an excellent qualification. Beginning at 14, the standard in which they are going to learn is extremely good. If they complete the three-year course with a diploma, that diploma will be more than good enough to walk straight into employment or to then go on to university. I understand what you are saying about the background of maths and physics and so on; this is teaching them the same but more relating to engineering with more hands-on to give them a much better understanding of engineering so that when they leave school and go into employment, it is not a million miles away.

Q37 Dr Turner: So you have high expectations of this diploma?

Mr Lakin: I do, yes.

Q38 Dr Turner: Since you are involved with it, how widely is it going to be rolled out in schools?

Mr Lakin: It is going to be launched as a pilot for the first two years, starting in September, hopefully to iron out all the problems, to then go national. The interest is there because it is not a million miles away from an NVQ style of qualification, where it is more hands-on. The children that are keen to make and design things, to be hands-on, but do not necessarily like the more academic side of education; it is the perfect qualification for them.

Q39 Dr Turner: Do you think that the academic high-flyers in schools will be attracted by this qualification?

Mr Lakin: Yes, I do. It is open to all. With the academic high-flyers, you normally find that they excel; they go on to A-levels, university and then when they leave university, go straight into employment and they are as green as grass because they do not have the hands-on experience.

Q40 Dr Turner: Are you all going to study engineering, those of you who have not already? Are you girls going to study engineering at university? Do you want to?

Miss Mensah: Yes, I am considering it.

Q41 Dr Turner: You may want to go to Imperial; it is a tough place, I was there, you do not go there lightly. But you are all budding would-be engineers?

Miss Mensah: Yes.

Q42 Dr Iddon: Can I ask both Rachael and Shorna-Kay, you mentioned other initiatives such as competitions outside your own club at school. Could you tell us a bit more about the kind of out of school activities that you have been involved in, particularly competitions and perhaps involvement with other schools or other clubs?

Miss Mensah: The first out of school competition I was involved in was the one from the Tower of London, building the trebuchet. Because my team won at that challenge, I was more interested and my teacher told me about a residential trip to do with the Smallpeice Trust that I might be interested in going on, so when I first heard about it I was interested and I learned more about the residential trip which is when I decided that I would on it. When I did go on it, it was good. It was to do with creating, building and construction, and there were competitions. Again, my team won that so I was getting excited about engineering. The last competition I have been on was a final for the trebuchet competition, which I did on the Tower of London. That was with four other schools as well as mine. Again, we won that competition so ever since I have been going to the competitions, I have been getting excited and interested in engineering.

Q43 Dr Iddon: So, for you, competitions actually made you more interested in engineering?

Miss Mensah: Yes.

Q44 Dr Iddon: That is interesting. What about Shorna-Kay, have you been involved in any of these events?

Miss Reid: Only the same as with Rachael. As we won, I became more interested so it got me thinking that if I am good at it, why do I not just go for it.

Q45 Dr Iddon: Perhaps I can ask Abi, did you get involved in any events outside your school when you were younger that might have turned you on to engineering?

Mr Abioye: I work as a student ambassador in university for the London Engineering Project, and have been involved in working at different events, like student days, trebuchet and many others. Working with young people is so interesting to me and I really get excited helping out with engineering events. That has brought out my excitement about engineering and every day that I do events and work with London Engineering projects, I get really excited about engineering and really want to know more about what is going on.

Q46 Dr Iddon: I will be talking to David last. Can I ask any of the other guys what their experiences of events outside school were and whether they attracted you to engineering, or made you more certain that you wanted to be an engineer.

Mr Haughton-James: For me, it was that before I started working with the LEP, I knew little about engineering and I really did take the job to get more understanding of what field to choose to go into. Now I run my own engineering club at the school and help career and design ideas and activities in schools on a day-to-day basis. Seeing students my own age, doing these activities, which I have helped create and actually enjoying it, makes me feel that I could do this and could go on to do something bigger and better.

Q47 Dr Iddon: Josh?

Mr Simpson: I entered the Young Engineer for Britain competition and going there opened my eyes, because there was a massive range of projects from all over the country and from all different aspects which showed all the different areas of engineering. That was really helpful to me.

Q48 Dr Iddon: And Chris? It might be a long time back.

Mr Martin: Yes, it was quite a long time ago; not particularly while I was at school. The only thing I do remember was in the sixth form there was a residential summer course at Leeds University to look at mineral and mining engineering, which I went on and found very interesting, but that was my first insight into what engineering was and what it had to offer.

Q49 Dr Iddon: I would like to ask you all, but let me ask David, first: do you think these initiatives we have just been talking about widen participation in engineering and bring people into the professions of engineering?

Mr Lakin: Yes, I do. There is such a wide range of different competitions and challenges in schools - greenpower racing, Royal Navy challenge, Formula One - and because there is such a wide variety of challenges, when the kids take part in them, it is promoting teamwork, it is promoting engineering, it is problem solving and they come together and compete against other schools and see what they have done and talk to them. Whatever the nature of the competition is, they are also learning that aspect of engineering. With F 1 in schools, for example, they start learning about auto sports and that sparks an interest in mechanical engineering.

Q50 Dr Iddon: Can you recall any particular success stories that have arisen out of competitions?

Mr Lakin: Yes, certainly. With Young Engineer for Britain, for example, the last two years' winners were female winners, both aged 17, and they have gone onto develop their own business out of their initial idea. They are now managing directors of their own company at 17, which is amazing. Tanya Budd was one of those who originally wanted to study medicine. She entered the Young Engineer for Britain through her school; won the competition and went over to America to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair, where she won a special award and is now studying at Brunel University and wants to be a design engineer. So, by taking part in the competition, it changed her view from medicine to engineering.

Q51 Dr Iddon: That is interesting and I get the impression that outside events, particularly competitions, are useful in attracting people to engineering. What is perhaps the most exciting piece of equipment you got your hands on when you were young? I have been running a big science club with some fancy equipment. I will not name any of the stuff we have, but certainly when young people come and handle some of our equipment, they are turned on to engineering, I can tell you. What about Chris, did you come across any particular instrument or piece of equipment that excited you when you were younger?

Mr Martin: Not particularly when I was younger, not that I can remember.

Q52 Dr Iddon: It is too far back?

Mr Martin: Yes. Nothing stood out.

Q53 Dr Iddon: Josh?

Mr Simpson: For my project for Young Engineers, it was an electronic space project. My dad is an electronic engineer himself, so he did have things like old oscilloscopes in the loft and I always thought they were pretty cool.

Q54 Dr Iddon: Right. Le'val?

Mr Haughton-James: I have not actually used any instruments that would excite me or anything big. We have used raw and standard materials just to see what we could create from what we had in the stores room. The things you come up with out of that shows me that you do not need to have the best equipment; you can build anything with the least materials available.

Q55 Dr Iddon: That is a good answer. Abi?

Mr Abioye: For me, it is the general equipment like hammers, drills and all the things you see engineers using that most interest me. Day-to-day, when I work on events, I tend to use things and play around with them.

Q56 Dr Iddon: Anything, Shorna-Kay, switched you on that you have seen? Have you ever seen a rapid prototyping machine, built three-dimensional printer?

Miss Reid: No.

Q57 Dr Iddon: No? Anybody? Let me come back to Le'val. You had a year out in industry, of course. How did you get introduced to that concept of having a year out in industry and would you recommend it to others?

Mr Haughton-James: Yes, I would recommend it. I was introduced to it by a teacher from my school as I was having trouble finding the right college. I did not really want to go for this, I wanted to try something else just to get out of the classroom for at least a year. She introduced me to a scheme called TriSet, which led me to the London Engineering Project.

Q58 Dr Iddon: What are you going to do next?

Mr Haughton-James: I finish work with the London Engineering Project in August and I have been applying for apprenticeships, such as Carillion Construction and Tube Lines, and hope to do one of their apprenticeships.

Dr Iddon: Well, I am sure we all wish you luck with that.

Q59 Dr Gibson: When you are young, people often ask you that daft question, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" When I was asked it, I would say that I wanted to play for Scotland, Glasgow Celtics, and score the winning goal against the English at Wembley. It did not happen, but it might have happened, that was my dream. When you are asked that kind of question, what do you say? You know what you want, but your mum asks you, your dad asks you, your uncle, the local greengrocer, whoever, what do you say? Do you actually say that you want to be an engineer or do you know that they will not know what that means? What is your experience of what happens? Or, maybe you are never asked it; nobody cares. You start, Josh.

Mr Simpson: My answer is that I want to be an engineer; I want to create something; I want to change the world kind of attitude.

Q60 Dr Gibson: You should be an MP.

Mr Simpson: That way, all you have to explain is that you want to be an engineer and if they ask what you mean, then you have to explain, well, in Formula One teams I want to make cars, I want to make planes; you have to narrow it down because "engineer" is quite a broad term and covers many things.

Q61 Dr Gibson: So that is what happened. Are people still asking you that question?

Mr Simpson: Yes.

Q62 Dr Gibson: Let us go along the line. What do you say when you are asked that question?

Mr Haughton-James: I used to say I wanted to be a footballer; everybody has that dream at my age from my area and then as I grew up I realised that it was not going to happen. I came close, but it just did not happen in the end. I only really found an interest in engineering when I started working and I starting saying that I am interested in creation and design but I am not sure if I will do engineering - but now obviously I am. So I would say engineering, if anyone asked me and they would just say, oh well, there is a lot of money in that and I would say that there could be but it depends what field I go into.

Q63 Dr Gibson: Do you think they know what design and creation means?

Mr Haughton-James: Yes and no; it depends. From my experience, with people my age, when I say that I am going into engineering, they ask, what field, and I will tell them and they understand. But for my parents, I have to explain in more detail for them to understand. Everybody has just started to have an understanding of engineering.

Q64 Dr Gibson: Would you just go along the line, please.

Mr Abioye: For me, I would like to make a difference; to try and change things around and see how things could work in the near future. Being an engineer you tend to create things and make things look different.

Q65 Dr Gibson: David, what is your experience?

Mr Lakin: When I came to start making my choices, I said that I wanted to be a designer. I was not aware of the different types of engineers, I just wanted to be a designer. I was quite fortunate because my father was a production engineer and he said that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it the proper way and get an apprenticeship. I knew I wanted to do something in design but not necessarily in engineering until I got involved with it and now the answer is that I want to be an engineer.

Q66 Dr Gibson: Rachael and Shorna-Kay?

Miss Mensah: In primary school, I was thinking of careers involved with science and when I first entered my secondary school, I knew what type of science I wanted to do, which was forensics. Now, just recently, I have got into engineering, so my mind is changing again. I hope to do something along the lines of engineering in the future; it might not be my main job, but I hope to be involved with something to do with engineering.

Q67 Dr Gibson: Do people encourage you; not just teachers but your friends and family?

Miss Mensah: I do not have many friends who know about engineering but the ones that do are interested themselves so they encourage me.

Q68 Dr Gibson: What do they say? Do they say that you are a nerd if you do engineering - your other friends?

Miss Mensah: To them, because I have not really experienced engineering, or the way I have experienced it, when they hear the word "engineering" they automatically think hard work, so they are not interested in hard work. One thing that scares me about engineering is the fear of failure - of creating something that does not work out. That is what scares me the most and I think they might have that fear also. More competitions and things like that would get them more involved and excited, because the effect that engineering has on me I am sure can have on everybody else.

Q69 Dr Gibson: What about you Shorna-Kay, what is your experience with friends and family, when you say you want to be an engineer?

Miss Reid: They encourage me to take up what I want. Before that, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but when I started to win more competitions, I decided that if I am good at engineering I should take it into consideration.

Q70 Dr Gibson: Do you think you could convert other young people of your age group to do engineering? Do you think more could be done there to encourage them? Do you think you are the best people to talk to them, or the teacher, or should everybody should be talking to them, or what? How can we get more people to be engineers, because you are obviously enthusiastic?

Miss Mensah: Teachers, mainly, and people like Le'val and Josh, because they are younger people so that when they speak to us we take more notice, because they experience the same things that we experience and are like role models that we can look up to and we would listen to the advice that they give us.

Q71 Dr Gibson: You said earlier that there are no role models that you can look to in engineering, but you must have role models in life with other interests that you have. Is that true? You can look up to - the Chairman said Amy Winehouse - her days may be numbered but who knows? Who do you look up to, David Beckham? Well, maybe not now, but are there role models in your life, people you look up to and say that you would like to end up like them - not necessarily engineers?

Miss Mensah: I do not have role models.

Q72 Dr Gibson: You just get on with it?

Miss Mensah: Yes.

Q73 Dr Gibson: Has anybody else got any views on that? How do you feel about this, Chris?

Mr Martin: Perhaps slightly differently, because I worked in industry for about ten years and I am an engineer and I am happy to be an engineer. I am quite proud of the role it has. Certainly, when I was growing up I was not aware of what an engineer was or what they did so it was not a role model that I aspired to be. Most children want to be racing car drivers or pilots or doctors because that is something they know and see in the press.

Q74 Dr Gibson: Some of you have come up with words like "creativity" and "innovation". When did those words come to you in your life? When I was your age, I do not think those words were even in the dictionary. An engineer was somebody who fixed things, made railway lines and was normally Scottish, because they are the best engineers, and we were brought up to believe all that mythology. Where did the words come from; do you get that at school?

Mr Lakin: At school the students are involved in projects in clubs and competitions, they start hearing these words and start relating that to engineering.

Q75 Dr Gibson: You mentioned East Enders, dirty hands stuff, Phil, etc., it is different, and you get that at school, that is where it comes from?

Mr Lakin: Yes, by the teachers and by external role models coming in and talking about creativity and how engineers can change things. That is how students change their perception; that is how they start, by repeating these words and thinking about them. Role models are very good at changing people's perception. As Rachael mentioned, Josh and Le'val, because they are so close to their age group talking about it they can relate to it rather than a 50-year old gentleman in a suit talking about engineering. It is a million miles away from where they are, but if they can see somebody cool like Josh and Le'val saying that they are engineers and proud to be doing it, then they can relate to it.

Q76 Dr Gibson: Are there any groups of people in school who are less likely to be engineers than others? Are they discouraged in any way? Quite obviously, here we have young men and women wanting to be engineers but in schools is it different in your experience? There was a time when young women did botany and boys did all the hard zoology, cutting up things. That is changing a bit.

Mr Lakin: Boys do tend to take it up more than girls.

Q77 Dr Gibson: Why?

Mr Lakin: Because boys see the excitement of making things and designing and making fast cars, etc.

Q78 Dr Gibson: But why should girls not feel like that?

Mr Lakin: Exactly. So we are working very hard with the schools to change that, to show the girls that it can be related to them. We find that the way it is offered to girls is all wrong; the way it is explained to them and the way that it is shown, is all wrong and it turns them away from it. We work very closely with the United Kingdom Resource Centre for Women and just changing the way that what is offered to girls is worded and presented, you offer them a picture and instead of having three white males doing something, we make it gender and culturally aware to include females.

Dr Gibson: And here we have a committee with no women on it at the minute!

Chairman: On that note, we will come to an end of this first session. Could I just thank collectively all our young engineers this morning. You have given us a great start to our inquiry and demonstrated that there are a lot of key points coming through from you in terms of how we can turn people on to engineering, and one of them is to have young non-Scots engineers talking to you. Thank you all very much indeed. Can we bring our second panel in now. We are going to introduce you now to one of the world's greatest engineers, so if you want to stay you are welcome.


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Lord Browne of Madingley, a Member of the House of Lords, President, Royal Academy of Engineering, Mr Norman Haste, Chief Operating Officer, Laing O'Rourke, Professor Michael Kelly, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Communities and Local Government, gave evidence.

Q79 Chairman: Good morning, welcome to our second panel of distinguished engineers this morning. It is rather sad that our first panel have got to get back to school, rather than hear what you have to say, but perhaps that is one of the reasons we are where we are. Welcome, indeed, to Professor Michael Kelly, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Welcome to Mr Norman Haste, the Chief Operating Officer of Laing O'Rourke, once described as the Brunel of the 20th century - what a title; and Lord Brown of Madingley, the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who was once described as the most admired CEO, and I am sure that was well-deserved. May I start with you, Lord Browne and perhaps just get you, as the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, to tell us what an engineer is; if someone asks you that question, how do you answer that, in a nutshell?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I start with the very biggest definition, which is that an engineer designs the future and makes a big difference to the world. She or he does it by conceiving something, designing it, then making sure it is implemented in order to operate it. So, the full suite of things that an engineer does is from the idea to the reality and in that design the future of the world, or a piece of equipment or a step in life.

Q80 Chairman: Why do you think, then, that there is this difficulty of relating that very simple description to young people?

Lord Browne of Madingley: As I reflect more and more on what I see people do, people are always very excited about the new and the novel and about the concept and the idea. Implementation, in all walks of life, be it Government, business, or anything, implementation gets less of a profile. People get bored with it and the real part of engineering is, of course, delivery through implementation. In some ways, engineers become invisible at that point, and that invisibility takes away the excitement of what engineers can do and what they are really contributing. Invisibility is not good for inspiring young people to do something that is exciting and that their peers can then say to them, "Yes, you've made a difference; you've actually made a real difference to the world". If you look at what engineers do, that is exactly what they do, they make a real difference to the world.

Q81 Chairman: Mr Haste, you must have been devastated to sit in the room here and nobody had heard of you.

Mr Haste: Oh, they are quite young.

Q82 Chairman: What attracted you to engineering? Why did you have this huge passion for engineering, which clearly you have?

Mr Haste: I suppose in the first instance it was in my blood, because I came from a family of engineers, although both my brother and my father were mechanical engineers and I opted to move into civil and structural engineering. From a fairly young age, like most children of the post-war era, I had the Meccano set and those sorts of things and you learnt how to create things, even at that age. The major inspiration for me came in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was brought up in East Midlands and the Humber Bridge had been a figment of everybody's imagination at the time and probably a political football at the same time. Anyway, it was given the go-ahead and I said that I was going to work on that, and it took off after that. It is really about creativity, it is about making a difference, it is about contributing to the future well-being - and you may think this is trite -of the earth in general, because we have some really big problems worldwide, some of which I am involved in at the moment in India. It is only engineers who will be able to solve things like water problems, power energy problems and infrastructure problems.

Q83 Chairman: I was a school teacher for a long time before I came into the House and when I think of the physics and mathematics lessons that I have witnessed over the years, they are a million miles away from the creative vision which you are talking about, and I do not know how we bridge that gap, if you will pardon the pun.

Mr Haste: That is one of the things that is lacking in schools, in being able to give children a holistic picture.

Q84 Chairman: You do not think of physics as creativity, do you. You do not put the two in the same category.

Mr Haste: No, you do not think about it, but I think all of us have to have a basic foundation in the principal science subjects. With the advances that have been made in the world over the past 20 years, just to show my age, I never had a computer until 1982 and thereafter it has all taken off. Children are very computer literate, very early; they take their maths, science, physics and other subjects up to GCSE and then things tend to fall away, particularly as far as those who are interested in continuing maths and science. One of the reasons for that is that within the school environment, children are not taught about the holistic picture, in other words, how maths, physics and computer science are applied. The principal difference between engineers and pure scientists is that engineering is about the application or the implementation of the sciences and if we were able to show people how computer science and computer applications go into developing, whether it is telecommunications, tunnel boring machines, all those kinds of things, they would get a much better picture and be much more excited by the prospect of going into engineering.

Q85 Chairman: Professor Kelly, if I can call you an academic engineer, for shorthand, is that derogatory?

Professor Kelly: No.

Q86 Chairman: Do you feel, in academia, that we pay enough attention to portraying engineering as a creative discipline?

Professor Kelly: Yes, I think we do. At the moment there is a debate. Lord Browne, referred to create, design, implement and operate, which is essentially the skill set. There is the other point, which is the basic facts, and there is a continuing debate around the world that if you put a complicated piece of equipment in front of a sixth former and ask them to take it apart and put it together you have a problem because there is a lot of stuff that they do not know. The question is whether that process gives them a bit of an experience of getting towards at least the implementation/operation side. There is a continuing debate around that. The creativity side comes out, particularly in Cambridge, where the students spend time through the supervisions with individual researches who tend, in every hour, to put five minutes at the end on what they have been doing for the past week.

Q87 Chairman: Do you think those young engineers at university level, undergraduates and post-graduates, spend enough time out in schools or in the community where they are exciting the next generation of people to follow.

Professor Kelly: That whole concept is a relatively recent thing. I know more closely what is going on in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where there is a systematic set of school visitations. There is at Engineering, but I have not been as close to it, I tend to get more e-mails from the Institute of Physics. It is most important that it is people below the age of 25 who are doing that.

Q88 Chairman: Absolutely. That is what the panel said.

Professor Kelly: Yes. I have been, for example, back to my own school in New Zealand, just recently, because I want to pick up a point that they made. It comes in half the obits of Fellows of the Royal Society that it is school teachers that inspire a disproportionate number of really successful people. In my own case, I was taught by a De La Salle Brother in a school in New Zealand, who taught me maths, physics and chemistry, being two years out of Sydney University as a chemist. He was turning himself into a geologist in real time, so it was his generally inquiring mind, day after day, that set me up for it.

Q89 Chairman: I am trying to follow this theme through in terms of how engineering is portrayed. Lord Browne, the engineering sector seems to be haphazardly organised; that is the most complementary thing I can say about it. Why do we need 36 institutions to charter engineers? What is all that about?

Lord Browne of Madingley: It is a statement of "we are where we are". What was designed in the Victorian era, when this all started, is very unlikely to be applicable and right in the 21st century. But, we have to recognise human motivation and structural paralysis that comes through institutional building in that in these institutions there are people who are doing a tremendous job, but they are aspiring to the presidency or to the council of these institutions and they are very unlikely to agree to abolish these institutions. That is a very difficult thing to do and they are all set up quite independently. Perhaps hope lies in building better bridges between these institutions; confederating them; putting them in a place where we can work with a more powerful unified voice on matters that make a difference, to make sure that engineering is there as an input into policy, not only for Government decision-making, but also for industry decision-making, and to try and unify in, to a degree possible, the voice. Some progress has been made from time to time on specific items. I have recently convened, about a year ago, a round table on one of the matters on which I believe engineering could make a huge difference and one in which I obviously have much experience, which is energy and climate change. There, we have brought together the principal institutions to see what we could do and where we thought engineering could make the biggest difference. That was a successful intervention and one I would like to see happen again and again. To repeat, we are where we are, but if we were starting from here we would not be here.

Q90 Chairman: It is a bit ironic, is it not, that engineers who shape the world and create and build things are not capable of putting their own house together. Could we start with the Academy? You are in charge of that, you are all powerful.

Lord Browne of Madingley: That is not true!

Q91 Chairman: Well, that is what I hear. We heard, when we met you, when you very kindly hosted a seminar for us at the Academy, the suggestion that instead of calling it the Royal Academy of Engineering, it should be called the Royal Academy of Engineers and therefore could incorporate all these 36 bodies quite neatly. What did you think of that as a suggestion?

Lord Browne of Madingley: There are many different ways but, in the end, everything has to be done on a voluntary basis. There is no "right" or "might" here that can impel people to come together. I want to remind you that the Royal Academy of Engineering started as the Fellowship of Engineering and was very much to do with the people; it was modelled after the Royal Society; it is an honour society, to honour those of distinction in the engineering field. Beyond that, it began to develop in its relatively short history of 30-odd years, into something which then began to represent engineering in specific areas and, in particular, to provide the top accolades to engineers and research fellowships and studentships to those of high merit. It has got much more to do to keep bringing engineering to the table in matters that make a difference to the world, and that is to where we have got to get the Royal Academy. To change its name would be interesting in the end though it is a matter of persuasion of people to come together to work so that their force is amplified rather than cancelled by interference.

Q92 Chairman: So, Professor Kelly, nothing is going to change, is it?

Professor Kelly: Things are happening slowly. There are fewer engineering societies than there were ten years ago because some of the smaller ones are gradually being subsumed into larger ones. Whether we will get the challenge of the electricals, civils or mechanicals all merging is another matter. I do not see that on the immediate horizon.

Q93 Chairman: We have the Engineering Council, the Engineering and Technology Board and the Royal Academy of Engineering, surely we could start by having those three together. Would that be possible?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I believe anything is possible, of course, but all these things were set up at different times for different purposes and, as I think everyone is aware, the issue is never the setting up of an institutional body, the very big issue is getting rid of it. There is never a problem with invention here. The question is, has the time expired; is the right thing happening, and what will happen to the funding if something is removed? In the end, these things need to take a natural path because, again, I come back to the point that it is very difficult to get people to volunteer to do something unless they are incorporated in something larger. I would like to see that happening, but it is not something that can be done at the flick of a switch.

Q94 Chairman: Mr Haste, how important are these institutions? What difference would it have made to you and your career and your achievements if they had not existed?

Mr Haste: The history of the engineering institutions goes back to 1750, when there was no real demarcation or separation of the engineering professions but, at that time, there was a split and the term "civil engineering" was introduced which marked the difference between military engineering and engineering applied to developing the civilian world. There has been a proliferation from that. For many people who are members of those institutions, they do feel an affinity because they are essentially learned societies which exist for the interests of the members and therefore it is going to be self-perpetuating. I was a supporter of the amalgamation of the electricals, mechanicals, civils and the structurals into something that operated on similar lines to the Australian Institute of Engineers. Although the Institution of Engineers of Australia exists as a body representing all the engineering professions, it has colleges within it, so that the people who are very proud of their own discipline have their own identity within it. I think that is something we should look at again for the future. It is going to be self-perpetuating because that is how engineers become chartered and are affiliated to their profession.

Q95 Chairman: But if you had one chartering body, then that would deal with that would it not?

Mr Haste: It would.

Q96 Chairman: That would be the way forward. Do you think Government could intervene in that way and say, "Right, we'll have one chartering body" and that would force the issue. What do you think, Lord Browne? Should we recommend that?

Lord Browne of Madingley: That is obviously up to the Committee. But whatever this Committee does, it is important to say that the recommendations probably will happen in the way in which people think about the future role of these institutions. I am very much with Mr Haste. I think it would be tremendous to have them under one umbrella. I come back to the point, not for organisational neatness, because that does not matter, it is about how engineering is represented and makes its point in decision-making, at the governmental, industry and academic levels, to make sure that we do not have too many people saying different things or maybe even saying the same thing in a slightly different way and confusing people and not getting their message across. That is the really important thing. There are subsidiary things to do with efficiency, of course, and making sure that people's time is not wasted, etc., but those are secondary.

Q97 Chairman: Lord Browne, I can call myself an engineer; anybody can call themselves an engineer; that title is not protected. Would that be one way in which we could raise the status of engineers, as they do in Canada and as they are just about to do in India, and to have "Eng" as a real badge of honour?

Lord Browne of Madingley: It would be a hard road to go along because of the proliferation of the use of the word, but it should be a protected professional word; I agree with you. People do not go around calling themselves physicians unless they are physicians.

Q98 Dr Turner: You have masterminded some fairly big projects in your time, Mr Haste, but there is a perception that the United Kingdom is not very good at delivering major projects. Do you think that is justified?

Mr Haste: No, I do not think it is justified. I have a concern about whether it is society or the way its government views engineering and it contributes to the country in the wider world. We are very bad in this country at celebrating success. When you say that we are not very good at delivering projects, I can name a few projects that I and other people have been involved in which have been tremendous successes. Unfortunately, the success gets bound together with political argument. If you take the Channel Tunnel, that was a fantastic engineering success. I led a team of 600 people; engineers of all disciplines, planning and designing Terminal 5 for six and a half years, but unfortunately, instead of celebrating that as an engineering success, it has become notorious because of British Airways' troubles with their baggage handlers. That is putting the wrong bias completely. What I would like to see is a much greater celebration of success with engineering because we are very good at it. There is a myth about having to bring American programme managers in to manage our projects which is completely ill-founded.

Q99 Dr Turner: I would like to ask all of you for your views on the DIUS White Paper on the Innovation Nation. Do you feel that the focus was wrong; that it was concentrating far too much on the relationship between science in academia and industry and not paying enough attention to the role of engineering in innovation? Lord Browne, do you have a view?

Lord Browne of Madingley: It would be easy to say that there is not enough attention being paid to engineering, but it is much more complicated than that, obviously. If I take the specific point of innovation, engineers must play a very important role, but it is because of the following: if you can educate engineers to look across a large number of disciplines - and they are the people who can best deliver through implementation - and also look to the science and to the commerce at the same time; that is a perfectly educated engineer. Having people like that would bias success in innovation. There are plenty of people like that, for example, who exist in parts of the United States, where you can see innovation getting to the point faster, more thoroughly and more often, to a successful commercial end. It is education in a broader sense.

Q100 Dr Turner: It sounds very much as if you agree with that point because I understand you to say that engineers play a pivotal role in the process and this does not seem to be particularly well understood in DIUS.

Lord Browne of Madingley: Yes, engineers do. Whether it is understood in DIUS or not, I do not have an additional comment on. It is by observation; engineers -or people trained in engineering processes - do play vital roles in getting innovation off the ground. I may say, so do Governments and so do financial markets, but that is a different part of the question.

Q101 Dr Turner: The Government does a certain amount to support and promote innovation: it funds research directly through the Research Councils; it has provided R&D tax credits to encourage industrial research, and it funds academic and industry interactions and the Technology Strategy Board. Do you feel that industry is doing its part? I seem to remember, years ago, one of the first things that the predecessor Committee did was to look at R&D funding in the United Kingdom, and the R&D spend, of most of British industry, as a percentage of its turnover was frankly pathetic with certain honourable exceptions. Do you think that industry should be doing more in this field?

Lord Browne of Madingley: There are several points I would like to make. The first is that it is very difficult with industry nowadays to examine simply the United Kingdom as a sub-set entity of what is going on, because research and development and projects will flow to where they are best done in the world. You will find a much broader international approach to all the matters associated with research and development. The second point is that it depends very much on the business drive; it can be enabled by Government and Government does do a reasonably good job in thinking of the different phases needed in innovation and the different tax arrangements and incentives required in the different phases of start-up. The answer to the question is that, by definition, industry is doing what it should be doing, because it is driven by its own objectives. Whether it can be catalysed to do more depends on the industries that are created. There is no real answer to this question.

Q102 Dr Turner: Do you not feel that there has been a history of industrial decline in Britain because of insufficient R&D - the death of the motorcycle industry was a classic example - and that British-based companies, I know it is complicated with multinationals, on the whole - Rolls Royce is an obvious exception - do not seem to have the vision to understand that they must invest to prosper?

Lord Browne of Madingley: You have answered your own question. Obviously, there are complicated reasons why industries are built and why they decline and why they go to different places in the world. Part of that is research and development; part of it is fundamental recruitment of people; part of it is great leadership, understanding the right strategies; part of it is being flexible and nimble, and part of it is having access to great financial markets. All of those things combine and if one thing is missing, usually then something goes wrong and the industry or the particular company declines. R&D is only part of it - an important part - but only part.

Q103 Dr Turner: Engineering research is slightly different from much academic research. Science research is very easily recognised and quantified through the research assessment exercise, for instance, whereas engineering is, by definition, multi-disciplinary and this is much more difficult to recognise. Do you think it would be helpful if we had some new framework or measure of research excellence in the engineering field?

Professor Kelly: I was on the RAE panel for electrical engineering in 2001. As a panel, we wanted to degrade the value of the academic papers to 30% of the overall score and give 70% split between the interpretation of the impact that was in what was then called the RA5 and 6 statements, and the acknowledged successes, but we were overridden by the central RAE Committee saying that other panels would be looking at things differently and it was not going to be a level playing field. Personally, I think that 70% of the value of engineering research is actually getting it implemented, or as I like saying to my physics colleagues, 99 out of 100 physics ideas remain good physics ideas; it is the one in 100 that changes the world, which is the one that engineers concentrate on. I was head of department at Surrey and if a young person, say aged about 30, came to me asking, "How do I progress? I have got to be a teacher; I've got to be a researcher; organise the school; I've got to be out there helping industry; I've got to be counselling students and I've now got to be an entrepreneur". If you try and manage those careers, and there are ways of doing it, then there are certain phases in people's lives where they should be concentrating on the academy of their subject - and I suspect that is in the first half of their 30s - but equally, there should be a time in their 40s when they are spending a significant amount of time out there making sure that they are working with industry giving serious advice to local government and other things. If we did not have the RAE cutting right across the whole subject, we could easily have a way of managing academic careers that would be for the better of the United Kingdom.

Q104 Dr Turner: It is interesting that you should say that, Professor Kelly. Do you think that it would helpful to engineering as a whole if our universities, which do have engineering excellence, had the same sort of standing in the eyes of the rest of the world as straight science-based universities? Their reputation is marvellous, but you do not get quite the same gloss with engineering and it would be helpful if you could create that.

Professor Kelly: I do not quite understand that. The largest single department in the University of Cambridge is engineering. Ten per cent of all persons studying, and working as scholars in Cambridge are engineers, so I am not quite sure what you have in mind. If you think that Imperial College or the University of Warwick should somehow be different from Cambridge, I am not sure.

Q105 Dr Turner: But people do not talk about it in the same way, that is the problem, so it does not get so much into the public perception. It is not valued so much, so it does not attract talent so much.

Professor Kelly: The fact that we do not broadcast our own successes makes us partly guilty for that. I have tried to enliven my lectures with the things that happened when I was in industry developing things. Some of the behaviours associated with the development patterns, in particular with commercial decisions, were the sort of things that were never taught in physics 101. Afterwards the students said, "Thanks very much for all the engineering, but we really appreciated the fact that you put a personal touch to it". It is the excitement of team building, of convincing other people that this is their future. I worked for GEC at a time when on an annual basis I had to persuade division managers not to declare the profit that year but to have faith in me that in a couple of years' time they would have more profit to declare to Lord Weinstock. That was a discipline and it is not necessarily something that is taught. One general comment I have is that we tend to teach people to be very good practitioners. One of my colleagues with whom I worked at MIT, now has a $20 million grant to try and develop a serious course at MIT for engineering leadership so that people will leave MIT thinking that they will be running the world from day one.

Q106 Chairman: In terms of Laing O'Rourke, do you have a significant R&D budget?

Mr Haste: Yes, we do. We have invested heavily in digital prototyping, which is an area where we like to think we are leading the industry. It is a bit slow at the moment, but we are of the view that if we are going to change things we have got to be much smarter about the way we design things, the way we construct things, so hence, this investment of about 7 million we have put into it and we are extending that.

Q107 Chairman: Did you say 700 million?

Mr Haste: No, 7 million. It is a digital prototype facility. We are extending that now by investing in factories in different parts of the world to work towards component-led design, where we manufacture components in a factory. There are many reasons for this: it reduces the labour content in the construction process; it makes things much slicker; the quality is better, and so on. We are passionate about trying to move the whole of the industry forward in those areas.

Q108 Dr Gibson: I want to ask Professor Kelly about the MIT Cambridge course. Is that still going ahead, because it was an initiative from the current Prime Minister when he was Chancellor?

Professor Kelly: The first phase is finished, but the current person in charge of it is sitting over there[1], so he will tell you about the latest position.

Q109 Dr Gibson: In the "hot slot" at 8.10 a.m. this morning on Today Radio 4, the Prime Minister again mentioned the word "science" - it drops into every conversation, so that indicates the importance of it. But in terms of the relative weighting and support for each aspect of science, technology and engineering, etc., do you think there is a fair apportioning of resources or is there a hierarchy in support in science and how do you think that is instituted? For instance, stem cells are "in".

Professor Kelly: That is perfectly correct for science that at any point there will be something 'in'. It is like a wave coming up a beach; there will be certain waves at a time and that has happened several times in my career. I am very fortunate to have been in the semi-conductor sector in the 1980s, when certain excitements were happening of a kind that are not happening now. What comes behind that is the sub-set and the hard work - and I believe that engineering is harder than science, in spite of what people say. Until you have had the yield and the reproducibility, you do not have a product. Most of the breakthrough stuff in science is based on one-offs; you may get two or three produced in another laboratory and that is the end of it as far as the scientific understanding is concerned. That is only the start of the engineering. The fact that there are seven Research Councils means that there is a reasonable cut for engineering work. One of the things that always gives me some satisfaction is that when a few years ago there was a step increase in the life sciences funding voted from here, the first thing that the life sciences did was to give some money back to EPSRC because they said, "Look, it's your instruments that allowed us to get to where we are, so we need more of that". There is a certain degree of collegiality about the work. I am fortunate that I move in and out between science and engineering. I still think that I am using things on a daily basis that I learnt at GEC in industry about how to get to the point quickly, make the point sharply, and come to a decision. Many of my academic colleagues and some civil service colleagues are quite prepared to discuss the point at some length, but I have always been taught that you only have a certain length of time to discuss, then you have to decide and act. So, there are a number of those things associated with the mind set of academics in the different disciplines.

Q110 Dr Gibson: Have you any criticisms of engineers in general - you might not want to answer this - in terms of influencing Government in support for engineering? Do you think engineers do enough to promote themselves or do they just keep their successes quiet?

Professor Kelly: I suspect that I would have to agree with you on that. I made the point to Professor John Beddington, when he was appointed, that I hoped that the next few Chief Scientific Advisers would be engineers. I am glad to say that in the case of the MoD, that is exactly what has happened. If I am simplistic, I would point out that scientists know and engineers do. So, when it comes to on the one hand considering policies, that is one aspect, but then thinking of the delivery route, that is quite a different skill set. I believe that engineers are under-represented. We might even make an inquiry as to how many engineers were involved in the drafting of the report that you referred to earlier.

Q111 Dr Gibson: I wanted to ask you about that. There is a turgid organisation in this country called the Civil Service. Do you think they understand what is going on in terms of engineering and the role that it has got to play?

Professor Kelly: No.

Q112 Dr Gibson: I thought you would say that. Lord Browne, what do you think? You must have experienced the wrath, the enjoyment of civil servants supporting you at times, but in general for engineering, are they there?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I suppose I started on the basis that I would not expect it to be there and so I support an entirely different position. It would be good if there was much more there.

Q113 Dr Gibson: What are you going to do to get them in?

Lord Browne of Madingley: Again, what can one do except to keep making the point again and again, in little things like, for example, we still have a Government Chief Scientist or Scientific Adviser; it would be very good if we had a Government chief scientific and engineering adviser, or maybe a Government chief engineer and scientific adviser.

Q114 Dr Gibson: You do not think that fossilises the subject?

Lord Browne of Madingley: No, I think it just begins to make the point and make people say they are valid and it is part of the leadership capability needed in the country; it brings people along; it says that you need to be here; it is part of the overall equipment needed to get great things done.

Q115 Dr Gibson: I could say in certain areas, where there is a cancer tsar, for example, that has made one heck of a difference. A name is just a name, but it is somebody who spends their waking and sleeping hours trying to promote the subject they know something about and are interested in. I am interested in all those young people who were here this morning. Not one of them said they wanted to be a civil servant and that is fine, because their enthusiasm there at the minute for engineering, but the day might come when we could provoke them, seduce them, and get them into the Civil Service, because engineers end up in strange places nowadays. Why do we not have a programme to get them into the Civil Service?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I do not know whether we do or do not. Well-educated engineers are educated in a certain way of thinking; analysis and thinking, which leads to a practical outcome. This surely has to be part of the overall recruitment into almost any walk of life, where you need something done. That is quite important.

Q116 Dr Gibson: Do you ever get really angry when you hear things about what is going on in this place, about climate change bills and energy, and all the rest of it, and there is not an engineer to be seen anywhere in any of the Committees, or even advising?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I have spoken on this matter in the House of Lords. The answer is, yes, I get very concerned indeed. One of the great challenges of the world right now is how to migrate the energy mix of the world so that on the one hand we can keep going and developing, on the other hand we do not destroy the world by adding more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Q117 Dr Gibson: Professor Kelly, just for the record, would you say something about these areas, too; the frustrations that you feel in terms of Government response to some of the initiatives that you show?

Mr Haste: It has always been a concern of mine that there is a lack of engineers in parliament as MPs, and therefore, there is a lack of input in support of engineering within Government. Engineers tend to get their heads down and get on with what they are doing and perhaps do not care enough about the things they should.

Professor Kelly: I would like to refine something I said earlier. In the Department of Communities and Local Government, we have all the building regulations and we have engineers who are experts in certain aspects, but by and large they have not risen up. If you ask how many of them have elevated into the senior Civil Service, the answer is very few. The particular issue, for example, that I have been going on about, and I am slowly now getting some response, relates to the fact that 47% of the emissions by use today, in this country, come out of energy consumed in buildings, and 87% of the buildings that are here now producing that 47% will still be here in 2050. So I say, why, why, why are we going so much for eco-friendly new-build, when retro-fitting the existing building stock is the "bull in the china shop" of our particular department? To the extent that we decarbonise the source of energy and that is somebody else's problem, well, that is fine, but we still have a duty. The problem we have, which we are making some progress on, is the fact that with the very large sums of money, such as the billion pounds for the energy technology institute, or the billion pounds for living with climate change that has been corralled of R&D money, that money quite correctly will only be spent by consortia that have the credibility of clearly-defined end users standing behind them. The one project that I have on the go at the moment is to try and get the public sector building people who will have a renovation agenda, to come together and turn this into a retro-fit agenda by demanding ever-higher quality glass and materials, more sophisticated means of installation and to use us as the owning body and then bring the private sector in to allow the academics and the building research people to go and get a 10% chunk of that money.

Q118 Dr Gibson: Two specific projects, which are very important, are the Olympics and the Thames Gateway. Are you aware of engineers being involved in those issues?

Professor Kelly: Yes, I am. Certainly in our department, one of the particular projects that I just referred to will involve Thames Gateway activity. Not at the moment, I have to say, the Olympics, because I have not gone that far.

Q119 Dr Gibson: But it does happen that engineers are pulled in at times?

Professor Kelly: Oh, yes. Let me be very clear, the department is perfectly professional in bringing in engineering advice, but it then tends to go out again for peer review. The ability to have in-house expertise to tease this out is what I am commenting on.

Q120 Chairman: One of David King's big criticisms - and it is a report which our predecessor Committee did - was that Government is not an intelligent customer. Would you agree that it is not an intelligent customer in terms of engineering?

Professor Kelly: For a number of things, I think that is perfectly correct. There is an argument that I face as to whether a department such as ours should be in the marketplace or above it; that the job is solely to have economic levers to push and pull them, to which my counter argument is that Winston Churchill did not win the second world war pushing and pulling economic levers in the Cabinet rooms, he was out there making sure enough Spitfires were coming off the production line. Should we be sitting there thinking and arguing what might happen, and second and third order consequences, as opposed to getting out and doing something? I believe that if our department can be seen as the midwife of the public sector body that says, here is our building stock and we are going to be responsible leaders in the retro-fit agenda, we will do something for the country. It is a perfectly valid thing for the public sector to do but which does not fall at the moment within its normal mindset - with more engineers and you would have more of that.

Q121 Mr Cawsey: It strikes me that there are a number of issues on the agenda for the United Kingdom for which the role of engineers is going to be crucial. Dr Gibson has just referred to the Olympics; and there is CrossRail; building schools for the future; housing; transport; infrastructure; possible new nuclear power plants; the challenge of climate change; defence solutions. For all of that challenge for you sector, is it now a given fact that we have got a chronic shortage of engineers across all engineering sectors?

Lord Browne of Madingley: This is always a vexed question of do we have a shortage of engineers, because supply and demand tend, by definition, to match over a run of years. We are making some headway in making sure the market does not fail, in other words, people understand engineering better. Much more needs to be done at the school level, that has already been discussed, and evident from the feedback from the younger people previously. However, I also think that in the end people put their money where their mouth is and reasonably large numbers of engineers go into the financial sector at very salaries because they are worth it to their employer. Other employers cannot complain and say that they cannot get hold of them; they just have to bid for people.

Q122 Mr Cawsey: So, you think the market will correct that?

Lord Browne of Madingley: The market will eventually correct that, it is evident. For example, in my old field of oil field engineering, the salaries for petroleum engineers who are in incredibly short supply -people have not been going through school to do that - have gone up to approaching the level of MBAs from top-rate business schools. So that has equilibrated as a result of the demand. In the end, in order to get all these things done to get top-quality people the cost of an engineer has to rise, and it will rise.

Q123 Mr Cawsey: Professor Kelly, do you agree with that?

Professor Kelly: I think that is perfectly fair.

Q124 Mr Cawsey: Is that the same for you, Mr Haste?

Mr Haste: I do not support my colleagues - not very strongly, anyway - in saying that engineers should be better recognised because the laws of supply and demand come into play naturally and I support the views of Lord Browne on this issue. We cannot lose sight of the fact that in this day and age, young people struggle. Young people who have to live in London really struggle. We find in recruiting people, particularly to go and work overseas, we have to recruit two people rather than one and it is not man and wife, but it is partner and partner. When I went into full-time engineering education, it was about the top 5% of students in the country who went to university. Now we are looking at something over 55% of the youth of today go to university and study one thing or the other. Clearly, the Government cannot afford to pay for that, but I feel quite strongly that one area where Government can make a significant contribution is in the cost of educating engineers; the cost of making it possible for students to live, particularly around the major engineering universities, such as Imperial, Manchester and Cambridge, etc. Perhaps we should look again at contributing towards that cost as a Government, if we are really passionate about training engineers. You may think it is creating an elitist group and I would not be worried about that because I think it would inspire many people to go forward.

Q125 Mr Cawsey: That is very interesting. Inevitably, today, particularly because we had the young people earlier on, we are talking about the future of engineering and the need from the engineering sector, about young people leaving universities and what skills they have. Is that the only challenge? Is there also a challenge about ensuring that people who are already in the sector being upskilled and keeping up to date with changes in trends?

Mr Haste: Yes, very often.

Q126 Mr Cawsey: Is there something that the Government should be doing to address that, or is that for the sector itself?

Mr Haste: I do not want to get bogged down in history, but I think we have seen over the years where we have created for ourselves in this country an engineering skill base and then have allowed it to dissipate and disappear almost completely. In the 1980s, when there was a decision to go ahead and build four nuclear power stations, we had a pretty strong nuclear engineering capability here. But when the decision was taken for environmental reasons, or whatever, not to proceed with that programme, after Sizewell B, then that entire skill base disappeared. One can accept the reasons for not going ahead with that programme but not to retain and try and develop along with the rest of the world that nuclear capability, I think was a mistake. We see it in other areas, too, and I think it is something that we all need to think about very carefully.

Q127 Mr Cawsey: So, are we facing - and to go back to Lord Browne's point about the market corrects itself in the end and if you do these things the people come along to do it - a skills shortage for some of the ambitious projects that the Government has, like nuclear programmes?

Mr Haste: I think we are, but when we talk about correction, the way we would correct it is by going to recruit those people internationally.

Lord Browne of Madingley: I agree with that. Everyone recruits internationally; the pool is bigger and that is what will happen. The real question always is quality. Inevitably, in great projects, in my experience, or great new pieces of business and I am going to talk about business, it is the few people who lead it well with insight and they are probably some of the best engineers in the world. It is recruiting those people that really gets the difference between something that the world looks at and something which is ok, it is fine. It is that set of people you need to go after. We, in this country, have produced many of those people; we need to continue to produce those people. As I said previously, those people are those who get educated, not only in one discipline in engineering, but across the board and also capable of looking at science and commerce simultaneously.

Q128 Mr Cawsey: Are you confident that the Government's strategy for turning out engineers in the future is both the right one and adequate?

Lord Browne of Madingley: These strategies are never proved until they are done. That is an engineer's approach to the question. But there are good signs so far; more is being done at the school level. When I became President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, I have forgotten how many thousands of programmes there were - all of which were well-meaning. They have now been reduced to about 500 at the school level. That is good; the diploma in engineering is good. I think we should look at the way in which degree programmes are taught; that needs to be done. These are things that are building in the right direction. We will see how it works.

Q129 Dr Iddon: Just following up on that comment, Lord Browne. Do you think that engineering should be taught as a discrete subject in schools?

Lord Browne of Madingley: I am probably in a minority; I have always believed it should be. I know that there are arguments against it. When I was a schoolboy, no one studied economics at school because people said it was really bad for young people; it is a derivative subject and you had to do the fundamentals and you could only do it at university. Those arguments are often levelled to engineering. I think engineering is a very valid subject to be taught at school.

Q130 Dr Iddon: May I ask you all about the diploma in engineering. Is it a good advance or do you think it has been introduced simply because there has been a lack of focus on hard mathematics and science teaching in schools?

Professor Kelly: I confess that I have not made a specific study of that particular issue.

Mr Haste: I think it is good. I take tremendous encouragement from what is going on generally in terms of focusing on engineering and if I can play my part in it, I will and I would encourage everybody else to do so because we are the ones who have to help take this forward.

Lord Browne of Madingley: The Royal Academy spends a lot of time being involved in the diploma in engineering and I think it is a valid approach and can produce something which will add to the skill base of the nation.

Q131 Dr Iddon: I once taught in Salford University with three very large engineering departments - civils, electricals and mechanicals. I suppose the courses those departments were teaching then are completely out of date today, but I get the feeling that some universities are still teaching engineering in that old traditional way. We have heard both from the young people this morning and from you, the specialists, that we are looking for qualities such as leadership and we are looking for young people who can inspire others to create the projects like you, Mr Haste, have created all over the world. What is wrong with university courses and how do we get them right?

Lord Browne of Madingley: If I can add just a structural point. Mr David Sainsbury, in his latest piece of work indicated that a valid area of investigation would be to do just that; to investigate the way in which degree courses are taught in the United Kingdom and to make recommendations on what is the modern 21st century approach to doing just that. The Royal Academy fully supports that; we are in the process of trying to find funding to do this study; it is not a lot of money but it needs to be found from Government sources.

Professor Kelly: I would like to reinforce the fact that if you take mobile telephony, the only bit of mobile telephony that predates my undergraduate education is Maxwell's equations. The entire chip set, the entire display technology and the entire system's approach all post-dates 1970. There is a debate among academics of how much of this is engineering in principle and how much is follow-through[2]. The question I have asked when sitting on panels appointing chairs is, if 80% of engineering has been discovered since you were an undergraduate, at that stage since about 1980, and you make the assumption that the ratio of rubbish to substance in those publications is not rising exponentially, then we should be making much more room for what happens more recently - how would you do it? The come-back from some of my colleagues - and it is an acute debate - is the extent to which it is the examples that we use to illustrate the principles that should be updated on an annual basis. There is a big debate about the range of skill sets, for example, my own university has a common engineering degree; a number of other universities choose to separate them and specialise more, early on. The other point is that if we come with one size fits all, that would be the worse solution of all, because we are looking for a range of outputs and it may well be that we have more recognised diversity in the formation of engineering at university.

Q132 Dr Iddon: Mr Haste, as a well-known practitioner of the subject, what would you tell your academic colleagues? What are Laing O'Rourke looking for?

Mr Haste: I believe that the structure of undergraduate courses needs to be investigated in line with the way the world is moving. I would not advocate that an engineering course at university should consist of the traditional subjects - some of them, yes - but engineers have to make business decisions; they have to understand where they interrelate with Government; they have to understand where they interrelate with other branches of the engineering profession. I have floated the idea to many people that if I were designing an undergraduate course, I would include art, business management subjects, strategic planning, and possibly also something on politics.

Professor Kelly: One of the differences in the United States is that from the IEEE, as the institution, insists that 20% of the engineering credits of an undergraduate are taken outside the engineering faculty. This is an entirely healthy feature because it means that other departments in the university are seeking these engineers for certain parts of their undergraduate degrees, so that an engineer goes into music or advanced mathematics. Something along those lines should be considered here: a freeing up to allow people to decide if they want to spend part of their time in a business school. I come back to the project to which I referred earlier namely that MIT have got a foundation funding and a very handsome sum to try and look at what it is to produce engineering leaders. MIT say they have turned out people who are superb technically for the next two or three years of their life but, of course, education does not stop at the university stage, it is experience that is built on. They are asking themselves the hard question, is there something more we could do for these people to turn them out to be more gifted leaders in the future than they at the moment?

Chairman: That is a very positive note on which to finish. Could I thank very much indeed, Lord Browne of Madingley, Mr Norman Haste and Professor Michael Kelly. Thank you very much indeed for being our witnesses this morning.



[1] Note from the witness: "Professor Mike Gregory"

[2] Note from the witness: "ie. technology"