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COVID-19 is inspiring young people to consider STEM careers

03 August 2020

New research by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has revealed that young people have taken inspiration from healthcare professionals and engineers during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them to consider engineering and science for future careers.

Witnessing the outstanding feats NHS workers and engineers have performed in tackling the pandemic, 63% of those aged 10-18 now have their eyes opened to pursuing a career in medicine.

Over half of children (52%) surveyed are now feeling inspired to consider a career in engineering after seeing how engineers were mobilised so quickly to answer the call to design and build life-saving ventilators, as well as convert buildings into much-needed hospitals.

As the UK slowly tries to return to normal, the research also revealed that 82% of the young people surveyed believe science should play a greater role in government decisions, and 13-year-olds in particular (49%) strongly agreeing this is necessary.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) has now evolved to become a cool career to consider, with kids putting doctor (34%), inventor (30%) and engineer (23%) as the coolest careers ahead of being a TV presenter, which only scored 19%. Children who said they were inspired by NHS workers or engineers during the COVID-19 crisis explained their main motivations behind this prospective career choice would be to save lives (59%), improve people’s health (47%), do something that benefits society (42%) and work in a field others respect and value (40%).

However, the challenges of tightening the gender gap in STEM still remains, with just 42% of girls saying COVID-19 has inspired them to consider careers in engineering, compared to 60% of boys. This a problem that has long been stubborn, with research showing currently just 12% of those working in engineering occupations are women.

Ying Wan Loh, IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, said: “The results from this new research are really positive. Despite the extremely challenging time the UK has faced over the last few months, it’s really encouraging to know that young people have been inspired by those working in STEM during the pandemic and are now considering careers in these fields.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has showcased our fantastic medical professionals, scientists and engineers who have been working so hard to find solutions. It’s put them front and centre during the crisis and raised awareness of how important STEM is to our daily lives. I know first-hand that working in STEM offers fantastic experiences, with opportunities to make a real difference.”

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