The Big Assembly 2019

It’s Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2019, a weeklong celebration of all things engineering and a unique opportunity for students, schools and parents to find out more about the pathways into an engineering career. As part of the celebrations, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week hosted its annual Big Assembly – a live Q&A session with some of the country’s top engineers – which was broadcast directly into schools and colleges around the nation on 6 November – Engineering Day.

The UTC took part in its first Big Assembly, and our cinema room was packed with Year 12 students wanting to learn more about the world of engineering, from those at the cutting edge of their careers. The assembly was aimed at students at varying stages of the decision-making process; from those certain in their future as engineers, looking for some guidance on which path to go down; to the engineering curious; and those who hadn’t even realised engineering could be an option for them. It was also an opportunity for parents to get involved in the conversation and learn more about the benefits of an engineering education.

The panel featured a range of inspirational engineers who are on a mission to improve people’s health and the nation’s wellbeing. The assembly was hosted by presenter, broadcaster, and STEM ambassador, Fayon Dixon, who directed the nation’s engineering questions to the panel over the course of 30 minutes.

Joining her was Yewande Akinola, an engineer who designs and constructs buildings; Bryn Noble, an engineer who works to protect our environment; Mat Murgatroyd who improves the mobility of patients with knee issues; Nana Odom who is on a mission to use technology to support and advance patient care; Gemma Taylor who works with schools to understand the importance of engineering, computing and IT; and, Tijana Jevtic Vojinovic, an engineer helping to rehabilitate and use assistive technology for orthopaedic patients.

Throughout the course of the assembly, questions were flying in from around the country via the hashtag #TEWeek19 (check it out on Twitter, as the team was also answering questions online). The questions ranged from, ‘How much do engineers earn?’ to ‘What difficulties do you face as engineers?’.

Some of the more prominent advice that was given to the 150,000-strong online audience, was the fact that you don’t need a degree to become an engineer. There are many routes into engineering, the panel explained, and working up from an NVQ Level 3 and through apprenticeships, to becoming a chartered engineer (worldwide recognition of your role and letters after your name) is all possible without the traditional university route.

Another common question posed to the panel was, ‘Do I need to be good at Science and Maths to become an engineer?’. The short answer from the professionals – ‘No’. Every engineer needs to be a problem-solver before they’re anything else, the panel explained. Not every engineering route is Science and Maths heavy, it’s more about your commitment to solving some of the biggest problems of our time, no matter how simple or complex they might appear.

And just like that, the Big Assembly was over in a flash. Questions poured in from students, parents, academies, schools and professionals from all over the UK.

Our session was rounded up by the UTC’s Dr John Dyer, who concluded, “You don’t have to always have wanted to be an engineer to be one. You might love problem-solving, but also have an interest in biology, engineering can be applied to a range of different scenarios.” It’s not all about the built environment, he added. “You can build apps, tissues, cells – it’s something that you can apply to lots of key areas.”