What is engineering and the future of engineering?

Engineer at work

What is engineering?

The meaning of the word engineering has changed since it was first coined in the 14th century but it plays an increasingly significant role in modern technology and car manufacture. The term ‘engineering’ is derived from the word ‘engineer’, which dates back to 1390, when an engineer was a constructor of military engines. But in today’s world, any engineer worth his salt knows how to multi-task.

Put simply, engineering is the application of scientific and mathematical knowledge to solve problems in the real world, and the four major disciplines of engineering are mechanical, civilelectrical and chemical. Whilst traditionally an engineer would specialise in just one discipline, today’s breed have to be polymaths.
In modern times, an automotive engineer is often expected to have knowledge of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems, as well as software design, and engineering for safety. As vehicle systems come to rely more and more on electronics and connectivity, the level of multidisciplinary knowledge an automotive engineer requires increases.

Engineering industries

Engineers work in a variety of sectors including automotive, defence, aerospace, energy – including both nuclear and oil and gas but also renewable energy such as wind and solar power – as well as medical, packaging, chemicals, space, food and drink, electronics and the production of steel and other metals.
Engineers take a rational, logical approach to solving problems that also features a high level of creativity. In the UK, engineering is a vibrant sector employing 5.4 million people. It is expected to have more than 2.5 million job openings in the run up to 2022, including 257,000 new vacancies. Despite this, the sector in Britain is bedevilled by chronic skills shortages, attributed to years of neglect of industry by government and within the education system.

Engineering: Taking the past into the future

Engineering feats of the past include everything from the construction of the pyramids in ancient Egypt, to the invention of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen and subsequent Industrial Revolution, to putting a man on the Moon. Today, engineering underpins modern life, and society would cease to function as it now does without it.
Engineering is a critical factor in development agendas in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of engineering capacity leads to poor infrastructure and lack of sustainable technological development. It’s in areas like this that multi-skilled, multi-thinking engineers are most needed.