For many parents with children in sixth form education, this time of year involves weekends filled with a lot of trudging around from university to university, trying to establish what makes one campus stand out from another.
Whilst the kids may be more concerned with the accommodation, freshers facilities or music scene, Mums and Dads are right to steer the choice around to the correct University for the course. The types of degree being studied changes as some become fashionable and others less appealing, but the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) routinely stay in the top ten.
This year it was reported that Sir James Dyson planned to triple the number of engineers he employs – news which will have been a bonus to the 141,100 students who applied to do an engineering degree this year. This figure represents an 11% increase in applications to UCAS.
Whilst there is no doubt that a degree of some sort is almost vital to those wishing to progress to the heights of CEO one day, conventional theory about the traditional MBA being the best option is being challenged.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently polled 100 of its best performing CEO’s and found that 24 of them had undergraduate degrees in engineering, compared with 29 who had MBA’s. Backing up this research, analysts Spencer Stuart took a study of 500 CEO’s and discovered that 33% of CEO’s had an engineering degree, a higher percentage than any other category.
So what is it about an engineering degree which makes it useful to business leaders? Dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria believes it to be the practical pragmatic orientation that studying for the degree gives a student. In essence, Engineering is about discovering how things work and therefore what changes can be made in order to improve functionality in any given field.
The biggest planes, the tallest buildings, the fastest computers – all the result of an engineering brain. Great engineers are great problem solvers. The ability to provide practical solutions to problems is crucial, time management, identifying project feasibility from a financial and practical perspective – all skills vital to a successful CEO.
Engineers rank among the highest paid professions in the world and yet there is a skill shortage of specialist engineers, as reported earlier this year. The FT reported that the growing shortage of engineering skills was actually threatening to hold back efforts to rebalance the UK economy.
In the article, Vince Cable, business secretary, was quoted as saying that skills shortages were “a massively serious problem” that could disrupt the recovery “unless we get this right”.
The Works, a recruitment specialist based in the North of England has seen a similar trend in candidates lacking technical skills. The industry also faces competition because demand for engineering and maths graduates is rising in the financial services sector for the first time since the recession.
So if you’re facing another journey to another university this weekend, save yourself the bother. Find out which of the following universities have offered places and sign your kids up for an Engineering degree now, then sit back and wait for the CEO offers to roll in!
Top Twenty UK Universities for Mechanical Engineering degrees..
2 Imperial College London