Retired Engineers Inspiring the Next Generation

A recent report from the Royal Academy of Engineering has highlighted a shortage in engineers, with an estimated 1 million new engineers and technicians needed by 2020. One of the key causes of the current skills shortage is the perception that younger people have of what a career in engineering could look like. 

In partnership with My Future My Choice, LinkAge has been working to inspire the future generation of engineers, by engaging them with those over the age of 55 who have previously had a career in the industry. 

On Tuesday 1st November, 15 students from Bedminster Down School were joined by a group of local older people and older volunteers of the MV Balmoral and the MShed Cranes, to share their experience and knowledge of engineering. 

The day started with the older and younger people being split into 5 teams that would then work together throughout the day. As an icebreaker, the groups were given five minutes to introduce themselves to other members of their team, before introducing the older person within their group to the rest of the room. This was the first chance for both generations to find out more about each other, whilst gaining experience and confidence in talking in front of a group of people. 

The first session was led by Hugh and Glynn and explored the topics of lifting things beyond human limits and investigating force and control. The groups were then tasked to build a working hydraulic crane out of card, syringes and plastic tubing. To create a successful crane, the groups need to work as a team, whilst also utilising their individual skills. The cranes would be used later in the day for a small competition. 

Throughout the day, each team had 2 breakout sessions led by the older volunteers, to look at the ships mechanics and the harbourside cranes. On board the ship the volunteers took each team down into the engine room, to look at what makes the ship work and what kind of issues could arise when at sea. There was a lot of discussion from all the groups around similarities and differences between an engine this size and how it compares to a large cruise ship. Each team also got to experience controlling the cranes on the harbourside under the guidance of the knowledgeable volunteers, who explained the history and the workings of these iconic cranes. 

Both the younger and older people who were involved in the day expressed how much they enjoyed themselves and how it was a great opportunity for both generations to come together to share skills and knowledge. 

Ricky Bush, LinkAge’s Senior Intergenerational Development Worker said, “This was a superb opportunity for older people who have had a career in this industry, to share their passion and experience with the younger generation, who will soon be making decisions about the direction that they will be taking in their careers. It was great to see everyone working together regardless of their ages and learning together how technology and robotics has developed.” 

To find out more about LinkAge’s Intergenerational work please contact Ricky on 0117 353 3042 or email