The on-going issues faced by UK organizations attracting suitably trained and enthused young recruits for science, technology and manufacturing roles are not new. Back in 2008 we heard the same stories from Government and industry leaders so we decided to do something about it by launching Bloodhound Education. Separately funded and operated from the BloodhoundSSC project, it was intended to be – and still is – a legacy for all the research and technology associated with the project to inspire and attract school age students. We hear stories regularly about students who cite that involvement as their inspiration for science and technology. It goes back further than that; we have two key team members who were Mach1 Club members from ThrustSSC days.

We want to build on that legacy by using what we know works and adding new, exciting capabilities to a re-launched Education Programme.

But to do that, first we must check with those we want to support what their real life issues are and how we can help. At the Science, Manufacturing, Engineering Week show on June 5th-6th 2024 we launched a survey created with a number of key partners. The results of that survey will guide the creation of a ThrustWSH Education Programme.

Here’s what Joe Bush Editor of The Manufacturer wrote at the SMEW show launch to encourage visitors to contribute.

Water speed record set to inspire the next generation of record breakers

Key organisations from the world of media, recruitment and academia have teamed up with ThrustWSH, the team behind the world water speed record attempt, to help inspire the younger generation into the exciting fields of engineering, design and manufacture.

It’s no secret that the UK has a long and illustrious history of cutting edge and revolutionary design, not to mention breaking records. However, it’s also well-known that the UK has an emerging skills issue within the fields of engineering and manufacturing.

Fewer young people are choosing STEM-based careers and are being lured by other, perceivably more attractive sectors – despite the fact that many are now equipped with the digitally-based skills highly sought after by UK industry. This is leaving the UK manufacturing and engineering sectors with an ageing workforce and not only a recruitment but also a retention problem.

Therefore, to raise awareness of the projects, technologies and opportunities that exist in the sector, The Manufacturer, Michael Page Recruitment, Bloodhound Education, Leeds University, University of Bradford and ThrustWSH have partnered to launch an inspirational education programme linked to the science and technology used for the water speed record challenge, to create a legacy around the project and inspire the next generation of engineers, manufacturers, designers and record breakers.

The first and vital part of this programme is to assess the skills landscape, analyse the problems that exist and identify where the gaps are. The team have collaborated to create a survey to help answer these questions and ensure that the education programme is the best possible fit for the educational needs of the sector.

With your help the ThrustWSH challenge will not only be a fantastic record breaking event for the UK, it could also serve as the inspiration and springboard to launch the careers of the next generation of innovators, designers and inventors who will be the backbone of UK industry in the years to come. Participate in the survey here.

Insight from those involved

Richard Noble, Director, Thrust Boats Ltd

“We all realise that the current generation, many educated by gaming, may represent the best recruitment opportunity we have ever had for the engineering and manufacturing industry. We have also learned from the Bloodhound Project that these open record breaking attempts have extraordinary educational and inspirational learning potential. 

“We know there are serious recruitment difficulties in the industry and we want to help with a new education programme based on the incredibly difficult Thrust WSH project. But first we all need to understand what is happening. This new survey will help us do that and we will publish the findings as soon as we can.”

Prof Neil W. Bressloff, Head of the School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds

“Within the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, we recognise the major role that universities have to play in educating and inspiring our future engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs. We hope that we can play our part in addressing the skills shortage in several areas, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Hence, it is a pleasure to be collaborating in this hugely exciting project.”

Chris Fairhead, Chairman, Bloodhound Education

“The Thrust and Bloodhound projects created a massive level of excitement with both parents and teachers providing an ideal home and school environment to stimulate a lasting interest in the young student from primary school through to Phd. Thrust WSH will do the same.”

Prof Alan Banks, Chairman, Composites UK

“The Composites UK Trade association are proud to be involved and help promote the Thrust WSH project.

“The WSH project is the exciting innovation the UK needs to help stimulate interest in the engineering and manufacturing fields that is desperately needed. The skills survey will help form the basis of the springboard to help accelerate interest in key skills that will be required to keep the UK at the forefront of engineering innovation an help the country understand how we can attract new blood into this exciting industry.”

Joe Bush, Editor, The Manufacturer

“Skills, specifically recruiting the next generation of talent, is a constant headache for manufacturers. Unlike many other sectors, engineering and manufacturing are far less visible to young people, and most do not have an accurate picture of what a career in industry would actually entail.

“Projects like ThrustWSH are exactly what the sector needs to inspire the problem solvers and record breakers of tomorrow and highlight the innovative and exciting opportunities that exist.”

Dr David Bryant, Prof Tim Gough & Dr Elaine Brown, School of Engineering, University of Bradford

“The School of Engineering at the University of Bradford is delighted to collaborate on this project. Providing the younger generation with enthusiasm, inspiration and opportunities to follow a career in engineering is crucial to ensure continuing strength in the sector. 

“It is vital to identify the new and emerging knowledge and skills gaps within industry to help shape and inform future STEM education, ensuring a stream of new engineers with the right foundations to drive industry forwards.”

Matt Devine, Senior Customer Engagement Director, PageGroup

“Michael Page are hugely excited by the ThrustWSH project and, in particular, the opportunity to partner with other leading organisations to help create a people-oriented project legacy focussed on bridging the gap between academia and industry for young people that are also excited by this project and inturn interested in a STEM career.

“Within UK engineering and manufacturing there is a very real and profound skills gap and we hope that by surfacing some of the underlying reasons for this we can help to have a significant and long term impact on how the UK views this key issue.”

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