STEM matters: Two new engineering institutions for children launched for engineers in the making...

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 July 2019

Institution of Primary Engineers & the Institution of Secondary Engineers
Institution of Primary Engineers & the Institution of Secondary Engineers

In its most ambitious step yet, the not-for-profit educational organisation, Primary Engineer recently launched two new engineering institutions for children – the Institution of Primary Engineers & the Institution of Secondary Engineers.

This column was originally featured in the July 2019 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The result of its fifteen-year mission to bring engineering into school classrooms, both Institutions have been designed and built for the digital age, and aim to fundamentally change the way skills are taught and nurtured in schools. The goal is to help provide a foundation to address the widening STEM skills gap, while improving school pupils’ career pathways and employability, through close collaboration with pupils, educators, industry, the STEM community and parents...

Primary Engineer’s founder, and creator of the two Institutions, Dr Susan Scurlock, MBE, said: “Today’s primary school children will, within the next quarter of a century, be the original thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators that change the world. The Institutions of Primary and Secondary Engineers will empower children to navigate a pathway to work, while identifying, building and supporting engineers in the making. This is the beginning of a cycle that will embed fundamental skills in children from a very young age, providing them with the foundation for their – and our – future.”

Both Institutions have been designed to help pupils and teachers structure skills, both personal and those closely related to engineering, and the wider STEM curriculum continuously throughout a pupil’s educational journey. Delivered via an online portal they allow teachers to create, access and evaluate projects, as well as keep track of the skills their school delivers. The structure of the Institutions revolves around an ongoing partnership with industry sectors, educators and the STEM universe.

Speaking at the launch, Professor John Perkins, CBE FREng, author of The Perkins Review of Engineering Skills, said: “The Institutions will provide the framework for bringing together STEM initiatives and education into a single, cohesive journey for children that will track and celebrate their progress as they move through the education system. Too often, young people’s experience of STEM-related activities, either as part of the curriculum in schools, or through outreach by industry or voluntary organisations, feels patchy and a little random.  These Institutions are designed to provide a coherent structure to help overcome this problem.”

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

Dr. Scurlock added: “The Institutions of Primary and Secondary Engineers have been a long time in research and development, and today signals a major turning point in the identification and development of fundamental skills at an early point in a child’s education. They are a modern tool, based on age-old professional membership organisations, which seek to support, nurture and acknowledge best practice. Too often, children who are excited by engineering skills and project-based learning are unable to pursue them consistently through their educational journey, and many able students lose the thread into STEM-related careers. We’ve now bridged the gaps between each phase of their education, giving schoolchildren an idea of what belonging to a professional body in a highly professional environment feels like.”

With the UK facing a STEM skills crisis across many sectors, forming a steady bedrock of professional skills formulated around engineering can only be a good thing. It’s widely recognised that engineering skills are highly transferable and therefore can underpin a wide range of career paths and destinations. The importance of encouraging the next generation of engineers, data scientists and other professions from a young age has never been more acute.

Moreover, in an age of transformation that will have a dramatic effect on the future job market, the skills that best serve the future workforce are those which require a project-based learning approach, including problem-finding, problem-solving, systems thinking and implementation skills.

Primary Engineer is a leading proponent of projects that bring together industry, teachers and pupils throughout the UK, and engages with over 60,000 pupils annually through its various programmes. For Dr Scurlock, the ambition to combine curriculum experiences with extra-curricular and outside of school experiences into a cohesive structure that allows students to continue to feed their enthusiasm for learning throughout their own education is the final piece of the STEM puzzle.

“With an open, inclusive, practical approach, the Institutions can become the backbone of skills-based STEM education in the UK. Now the real work begins – and we are calling for teachers, pupils and industry to get behind the Institutions and help us make them a platform to an exciting career that all pupils deserve,” added Dr Scurlock.

To find out more about the institutions, including how children, teachers, schools and enterprises can get involved, visit

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