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The future of electrical engineering

07/09/20
In 2019, there were 55,000 electrical engineers employed in the UK which is a modest increase over the past nine years. Though this field makes up a relatively small proportion of the wider engineering sector, there seem to be no boundaries when it comes to electrical engineering. Or rather, the professionals working within this subsector continue to push the limits. The applications of electrical engineering to everyday life are limitless - from mobile phones and household appliances to biosensors and embedded systems. Here’s how the scientific field has changed history and a look towards the future of electrical engineering.

How electrical engineers keep the wheels turning 

Electrical engineers are responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining telecommunication systems, factory machinery, renewable energy equipment, spaceship navigation systems – essentially, anything that uses electricity. Electrical engineering is responsible for keeping the wheels of modern-day society turning and providing new and innovative solutions to a more efficient and green future.

Redefining the limits of the healthcare sector

One of the most notable contributions that electrical engineers have made to the healthcare sector was the development of the pacemaker. In the 1950s this electronic device was revolutionary and its invention exposed the possibility for more complex health devices. Looking forward, electrical engineers are experimenting with the applications of 3D printing and have an ambitious - yet attainable - goal of designing a 3D printer which could create organs that would function in the human body.

Meanwhile, the global wearable technology market – valued at £21.22 billion – is experiencing a surge in investment. Uniquely, these electronic devices are being designed by engineers for engineers, among other consumers. Wearable technology has come to be seen as a way to track health data but the wireless devices are now being used by electrical engineers. When on the job, electrical engineers wear the device as a safety device, designed to alert them if they come into proximity with a dangerous energy source.

As these professionals continue to develop more sophisticated electronic solutions to healthcare problems, there appears to be no limit to the application of electrical engineering to life sciences.

Powering the energy sector

Electrical engineers are vital to the energy sector, from projecting power demand and maintaining power station generators to isolating potential dangers. As for the renewable energy sector, electrical engineers were responsible for designing and developing wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, both of which have paved the way for a greener future. As companies and nations place a greater importance on growing sustainably, electrical engineers are being called upon to deliver more efficient and sustainable solutions. One example of this is smart grids, and though the technology isn’t anything new the demand has taken off and is projected to hit a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% from 2019 to 2024.

The driving force behind the automotive industry

It’s predicted that by 2030 as many as 125 million electric vehicles will be on the road. With many electric vehicles already on the market, that projection may not seem ambitious but the scope for improvement is where the potential lies. The technology is backed by various climate policies but for it to be embraced there is much work to be done to improve the charging technology and upgrade the existing infrastructure so that is it more accessible. Judging by the pace of technological innovation and the progress being made by the electrical engineers writing the software for autonomous driving cars, it looks as though driverless cars are just on the horizon too. 

A move towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce

According to Engineering UK, 47% of the UK workforce are females yet they only represent 12% of the engineering workforce. A similar picture is painted for BAME people who hold only 8% of engineering and technician jobs despite accounting for 12% of the wider workforce. This is particularly alarming since the STEM skills shortage comes at a cost of £1.5 billion each year for UK companies.

However, progress is being made in the wider engineering industry. Higher education institutes are actively encouraging students from underrepresented groups to study STEM subjects and companies are recognising the need to introduce diversity and inclusion targets. Though there’s still much work to be done, the acceptance that progress within engineering relies on having a range of individuals of a different nationality, gender, culture, background, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and age is a step in the right direction. 

Find your next job with Orion 

The future looks bright for electrical engineers and at Orion we want to make sure that candidates are given their chance to shine. We understand the importance of creating a team comprised of unique individuals and we are acutely aware of the need to tackle unconscious biases in the hiring process. We have vacancies the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Middle East and America – browse our current engineering jobs here.

Interested in hearing more news from Orion? Take a look at our Engineering Graduate Survey 2020.
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