“WE need more Elon Musks.” If you think that sounds like an order given by the senior perfume buyer at Boots the chemist then you are not down with the tech kids.

Popstar Will.i.am certainly is, or at least he wants to appear to be. During a visit to Durham-based Atom bank, The Voice and Black Eyed Peas star used his considerable celebrity status to try and convince more young people they should study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school.

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The message from the multi-millionaire was ‘don’t be like me, or those rich footballers you see on television, but study hard in class and one day you could be the next tech billionaire, like Bill Gates, or indeed Elon Musk the South African magnate and inventor’.

The problem with Will.i.am’s simplistic if well-intentioned message was that he was urging people to become engineers, physicists and computer scientists by tapping into the same kind of unrealistic aspirations that prompt people to become TV talent show contestants. His rap to youngsters was unashamedly pitched at their basest instincts - studying STEM could make you very rich. 

Teachers and parents know that trying to persuade children to set aside their dreams of becoming a celebrity or sports star and knuckling down at school can be a tough task. Having a celebrity endorsement might help although how much yesterday’s event was about creating young engineers and how much was about promoting bank accounts and the fame-hungry Will.i.am is up for debate.

The serious point is that Britain needs more workplace-ready engineers. We need universities, industry, government, parents and careers advisors working together to make it happen. Where there is a will there's a way.