Apple reveals UK engineering team and introduces them to children to inspire them to become engineers

There is a 20,000 a year shortfall of engineers – and the industry is still severely lacking in diversity

Andrew Griffin
Monday 23 April 2018 14:35
Students meet with one of Apple's team of engineers at its London headquarters
Students meet with one of Apple's team of engineers at its London headquarters

Apple has lifted the lid on its elite engineers working in the UK – and introduced them to classes full of children.

It has for the first time fully revealed the team it has working on some of its most important products, designing chips and other important parts of its new iPhones, iPads and more. It did so to support the government's new engineering project – which will see it introduce a whole range of schoolchildren to its work to try and encourage more students to dream of becoming engineers.

Apple has thrown its support behind the government's Year of Engineering. The industry is still suffering from a huge problem with diversity, and companies across the UK say they are struggling to find all the engineers they need.

As part of the government's project, Apple is bringing students to meet with several of its important teams, including those that design the silicon that powers today's iPhones and the Siri voice assistant that lives on it. They will be talking to children about what is needed to be an engineer, and work through interactive sessions too.

At the launch of the project, Apple brought more than 20 children to meet three engineers from its silicon engineering team. The very existence of that team is largely hidden: Apple is always relatively shy about what it says about itself, and that applies even more than usual to its teams spread throughout the world.

The team is based in St Albans and is just one of a range of centres of excellence that are spread throughout the world. They work with Apple's Cupertino team to design the chips that power its phones, iPads and even earphones.

“The UK is home to some of the most highly skilled silicon engineers in the world and we’re excited that our UK Silicon Design Centre is located in an area with world-renowned universities and a high concentration of incredible talent to help us advance even further ahead," said Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president for hardware technologies. "We are hiring the very best engineering talent from across Europe in the fields of silicon design and verification and offering a range of complementary roles in software engineering and modelling.

"Engineering touches every part of our lives and during the UK’s Year of Engineering we’re also delighted to be supporting efforts to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers".

Apple has rolled out a whole suite of different coding software and other tools in recent years – most famously its Swift Playgrounds app, which takes children or adults through an entire coding curriculum using fun cartoons. But that has largely focused on programming software, rather than engineering, and Apple's commitment to the government's new scheme has seen it put its own engineers in the spotlight for the first time.

At the first of many events in London, students were taken through the tiny sizes and huge numbers involved in engineering: Apple's latest A11 Bionic chip, for instance, has about four billion transistors and involved a team of about 2,000 people. But there were other numbers too: 91 per cent of the engineering industry is male, 94 per cent of people working in it are white, and it suffers from a 20,000 a year shortfall in trying to recruit engineers.

Apple is far from the only company taking part in the government's Year of Engineering. It says around 1,000 partners will be involved, including everyone from Dyson to the Science Museum.

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