School pupils need more engineering experiences to consider a career in the industry

At the moment the engineering sector is suffering from an image problem amongst children, according to two new reports. It seems that despite seeing the value of engineering to society, the majority of school aged children simply aren’t interested in pursuing a career in the industry. However, could the answer lie in giving 11-14 year olds more positive engineering experiences to peak their interest?

Engineering experiences

According to a new study by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, 82% of teenagers aged 16-17 believe that engineering has a vital role to play in future innovation. However, a mere 21% said that they’d be interested in driving those innovations by pursuing a career in engineering. In fact, the perceived difficulty of STEM subjects is one of the main barriers turning young people – particularly girls – away from engineering.

On a brighter note, approximately 36% of kids surveyed admitted that they'd consider going into technology to build innovations that would help mankind. With that in mind, climate change and addressing depleting energy resources ranked as the number priority for 70% of those who felt that engineering could fix these issues within the next 20 years.

"Our sector needs to work together to overcome some of the outdated stereotypes and old-fashioned notions that engineering isn’t a career suitable for women,” said Nigel Whitehead, group managing director at BAE Systems. “We must do more to show all young people – and their parents – that engineering is a great career choice. We need to be bolder about the importance of STEM subjects,” he added.

Every 11-14-year-old should have ‘at least one’ engineering experience

A bolder approach to promoting STEM subjects is certainly something that is being advocated by another recent report that recommends that every child aged 11-14 years old should have at least one engineering experience. That could either be through a workplace visit or through a company coming to their school, according to The State of Engineering document by EngineeringUK.

The not for profit organisation, which works in partnership with the engineering community to promote the vital role of engineers and engineering to society, stated that engaging engineering experiences and careers inspiration should be an integral part of this age group’s sphere of interest.

“It is imperative that no talent is wasted,” the report said. “Governments in each of the devolved nations need to ensure [there are] joined-up education policies that deliver easy-to-follow academic and vocational pathways for our young people within schools and colleges. This will ensure maximum throughput in Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and into engineering careers.”

“Building and consolidating of existing programmes is necessary to positively influence the perceptions and subject choices of young people and get more of them interested in a career in engineering,” it added, while advocating the need for coordinated support from local, regional and national STEM employers.

Collaboration and partnership needed to attract more engineers

School trips to engineering facilities were cited as useful ways to highlight potential career paths for youngsters. That is particularly the case if the engineering industry is to revers the decline in female engineering talent in particular. EngineeringUK predict that Between 2010 and 2020, engineering companies could have 2.74 million job openings, of which, 1.86 million will be workers who are likely to need engineering skills.

Engineering is a growth industry that has the potential to continue to drive productivity in the UK,” said Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK. “This is a great opportunity, tempered only by concern about the need to train many more engineers if we are not to be left behind by countries like South Korea and Germany.

Minister of State for Skills Nick Boles, added: “These shortages are compounded by insufficient numbers of young people, especially girls, choosing a career in engineering. I am convinced we will only overcome these challenges if all those with an interest in UK engineering to commit to greater collaboration and partnership.”

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