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Educating the next generation of engineers

Why it’s so important to share best-practice and train up influential professionals within the engineering industry.

UK and international industry suffers from a deficit in high-quality engineers. Various initiatives are being set up to try and tackle this problem, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) ‘Associate Programme’ is one of them.

Hosted at Surrey and exposing international delegates to a virtual small-scale chemical business within the developed world, activities on the ten-week programme include running a simulated chemical plant, learning about health and safety issues and budgeting and managing a business from start to finish.

“We welcome delegates from 32 different countries including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Pakistan and South Africa – and it’s our aim to give them more awareness and information about the chemical engineering industry so they’re more ready to manage it effectively when they go back,” says business and leadership trainer on the programme, Ms Shirley Wardell.

Director of ‘evolve LEADTEAM’ (delivering the Associate Programme), Dr David Faraday, explains, “For instance, if they’re a chemical engineering academic, they may share their knowledge with the tutees; if they’re the manager of a plant, they might share their health and safety understanding or plan more risk assessments in the run-up to inspections.

“Engineering is a fundamentally productive industry in itself, and core to the UK economy. There has always been a shortage of good quality engineers – sometimes an appalling shortage. So we need engineers for our economy, to work with and help countries that are developing their engineering base like India and China. We need engineers in this country too, to build chemical infrastructure here and overseas.

“Engineering is incredibly transferable. It’s creative, highly numerate and conceptually-based, and because of this you can take these principles and concepts and apply them in lots of different areas. Anything we can do to encourage this – from hands-on work, theoretical planning to continued education and workshops – should hopefully help address the global shortage of quality engineers.”

Jeremy Osei-Bonsu, one of the Plant Managers on the virtual chemical plant, says, “I’ve just finished my Masters at Surrey and wanted to act as a fictional Plant Manager for the experience, as management wasn’t something I’d done before. So far, I’ve helped with the general organisation and leadership: it’s great to take this opportunity as I’m building on the modules I’ve learnt about at Surrey and putting them into practice and learning what a real chemical engineering company is like.”

The OPCW’s Associate Programme comes at the same time of Surrey’s wider Why Engineering? campaign, encouraging more students to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.  Current partners include Brooklands Museum, the British Science Association (BSA), Transport for London and WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction).

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In other news, NASA recently visited campus and praised Surrey’s engineering efforts. Why not view their video:

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