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More young people are considering a career in engineering

17 February 2014

A BIS-commissioned survey has found that the number of 11 to 14 year olds thinking about working in engineering has jumped by 6 percent.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Significantly, the survey showed a 6 percent rise in the number of girls saying they would consider an engineering career, an industry that acknowledges the need to recruit more women. More parents (a rise of 4 percent) also said they would encourage their children to become engineers.

The increases followed Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, which ran from 4 to 8 November 2013, when government, employers and educators came together to enthuse young people, particularly girls, about the rewarding careers on offer in engineering.

Government and industry launched Tomorrow’s Engineers Week following the Perkins Review of Engineering Skills which focused on the need to shore up the pipeline of skills throughout the whole engineering sector.

Professor John Perkins found the challenges start when pupils are still at school and choose subjects following GCSEs. Engineers must have a strong foundation in maths and science, especially physics but the number of young people choosing these subjects post-16 is relatively low, especially among women.

The government says it is addressing this problem through a redesign of the curriculum and teacher development.

Universities are urged to do more to retain women in scientific careers in a report published earlier this month. The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee Report on Women in Scientific Careers makes recommendations to attract and retain more female STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) academics.

The UK needs to recruit hundreds of thousands of engineers over the next few years, which will require talented engineering academics both to equip these engineers with the right skills but also to conduct important research and development activities. The quota of women engineers and women engineering academics remains alarmingly low.

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) director, Michelle Richmond, said the report highlights the gulf between senior female professors and their male counterparts. "Figures from Engineering UK show that Engineering and Technology has the worst gender diversity of all disciplines with just 17.2 percent of female academics – a truly shocking statistic," she says. “It is important to support women throughout academic life and both employers and institutions can play a key role in this.

“Confidence and recognition are also key motivators for women, which is why the IET highlights the achievements of women in engineering through its popular Young Women Engineer of the Year Awards and IET Women’s Network events and workshops to develop skills.

“Academia must be proactive too, especially in marketing their jobs to women. The best practice employers show creative ways of reaching out to women in terms of job adverts and flexible working patterns, and the results have been very positive but much more needs to be done to reverse this huge gender disparity.”

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