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Inspiring young people to choose engineering as a career, is the biggest challenge faced by the field today, according to Nigel Fine, Chief Executive of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Mr Fine was speaking to a group of multi-disciplinary engineers and education specialists at WelTec, as part of the National Metro Advisory Group meeting, in October. He explained that the western world faces a skill shortage in engineering which is accentuated by misconceptions held by young people, and a lack of sticking with the right subject choice at secondary school.

“We want young people to consider a career in engineering, or at least to continue taking the STEM subjects of maths and science, beyond the age of 14," Mr Fine said. "We want to say if you do this your career options will be much greater. Engineering skills branch out into many other careers as well. They expose you to a wealth of opportunities and you are likely to enjoy higher pay and job mobility."

The image that young people hold in their minds about engineering often works as a barrier that needs to be overcome,
Mr Fine says. “They are not sure what an engineer does and hold a perspective that engineering is a difficult field and one that is more suited to boys, and this is simply not the case."

Mr Fine was part way through an intensive trip from IET’s base in London, which took in Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. He was speaking to interested groups and international volunteers about IET, the largest membership organisation for engineering and technology professionals in Europe.

The not for profit organisation is dedicated to distributing knowledge of benefit to people worldwide, and donates over NZ $1.9 million dollars in awards, scholarships and grants, towards furthering the work of young engineers. It helps students in the UK find employment by providing careers support, networking, professional registration, links with industry and mentors, Mr Fine says.

It has 153,000 members in 127 countries, with 800 members in New Zealand, where it has a partnership with the Royal New Zealand Navy. Members have access to an extensive multidisciplinary engineering information base online and in print.

Mr Fine identified potential goals in his presentation, which included identifying and initiating an IET champion in polytechnics among the staff. He would like to see an engagement with local networks and a New Zealand forum which would also explore IET Course Accreditation.

WelTec is a member of the Metro Group along with five urban Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics.

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