The history (and future) of engineering in the North East

Published 31/10/2022
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“Surely an engineer is a man(!) who comes to fix your washing machine, repair your boiler or lies under your car in dirty overalls?”
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The short answer is no; an engineer is so much more than that.


The North East has a long history of engineering, including Robert Stephenson, Charles Parsons(whose turbines brought us electricity) and the engineers who designed bridges from Sidney Harbour to the Humber and the arch over Wembley Stadium.


“But surely, the shipyards, steelworks and coal mines have gone, so we have no engineering left?”


That is so not true. There is a company in Peterlee that builds some of the largest dumper trucks in the world and another in Birtley that builds construction excavators that use GPS and computer-generated models to tell them where to dig and how deep.


There is a company in Hartlepool that designs and manufactures cables to connect offshore windfarms and another on Tyneside that designs and builds some of the largest and most sophisticated wind turbines around.


A company in Hexham designs remote-controlled subsea robots, and another on the Tyne builds remote-controlled mine clearance vehicles.


There is a company in the Tees Valley that builds parts for nuclear-powered submarines and another that designs and builds components for Formula 1 racing cars.


The North East has a vibrant digital sector and is the only region in the UK that is a net exporter of manufactured products.


These examples only scratch the surface, but they all have something in common: they are seeking people with engineering skills and qualifications.

Engineering today


Engineering is international, diverse and inclusive. Engineers work in and come from every country, from all races, ethnic backgrounds, religions and strata of society. Engineering is for all genders. Whether you are a skilled tradesperson, a technician or a degree-qualified engineer, engineering can take you all over the world and into any area of human endeavour.


Despite all of this, the world of engineering remains little known to young people, their parents and, in many cases, their teachers. Bring It On, the annual “Exhibition for Future Engineers in the North East and the Tees Valley”, seeks to change that. Its objectives are to raise the aspirations of local youngsters, to show them that engineering can offer them interesting, worthwhile, well-paid, and secure future careers, and in doing, help to address the upskilling agenda.


Bring It On is a showcase for North East engineering and aims to educate young people about the engineering in their region, their town and down their street. It inspires them to want to be part of it and informs them how to become so. In 2022, despite the legacy of Covid-19, we welcomed 1,500 pupils and 200 teachers from more than 100 schools to our in-person event. There were over 50 engineering companies exhibiting.


Exhibiting enabled engineering companies to raise their profile with young people, their parents and their teachers and reach out to a potential future workforce.


To quote an experienced chemical engineer talking to a colleague, “If you have never been to this event before, it is crazy, exhausting and fantastically awe-inspiring”.


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About The Author

Bowman Bradley is one of the founders of Bring It On North East. He is a retired Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who spent his early career working in the chemical industry in Teesside and the last 25 years as an engineering project manager and consultant working in all parts of the world on many different types of projects. Mr Bradley became one of four founders of Bring It On in 2017 and helped to develop it into what it is today. He has also served as the North East Education Officer and North East Regional Chair of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and is currently a member of their Council. He continues to work closely with the local branches of other Professional Engineering Institutions in the region to promote engineering as a career to young people.

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