"Engineering underpins the very fabric of our country and economy, from our roads and bridges to our buildings and utilities. And yet, in this country, we haven’t valued engineering anywhere near highly enough."
It is a dichotomy that occupies the thoughts of Stephen Ball, the very recently-retired CEO of Lockheed Martin UK. From his vantage point, he has been able to view first-hand the growing deficit in terms of the number of engineers required by the country in order to support its growth targets and the actual figure being produced. It’s a situation exacerbated by a lack of diversity and too few entering from non-academic routes. So, if the pipeline of talent has become ‘choked’, how do we prevent the economy from wheezing and misfiring as a result?
One answer might be pioneered by the Tamar Engineering Project, a new programme conceived by the University’s Development Office, and championed by Stephen. It seeks to provide financial support and mentoring opportunities for those students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and Stephen is leading from the front, personally mentoring a third year engineering student, Ajen Limbu, through weekly phone calls and emails.
“I’m finding mentoring Ajen to be hugely rewarding, and it’s transformative to see him building his confidence, tackling issues and being successful,” Stephen says. “For example, he reached out to me shortly after he began his placement because he needed to talk about something, and then he emailed me a few days later to say he’d sorted it out and it was going much better. Ajen is doing wonderfully well, and he has that passion that engineers need to succeed.”