It’s time to shout loudly about the attractions of an engineering career

Happy new year! Two years into a global pandemic and much has changed – from how we conduct day-to-day business to how we travel and work with others. One thing that remains the same is our need to demystify what…

Happy new year! Two years into a global pandemic and much has changed – from how we conduct day-to-day business to how we travel and work with others. One thing that remains the same is our need to demystify what an engineer does to encourage young people to consider engineering as a possible career. Our latest survey found that less than half of teachers and under a third of parents are confident in giving engineering careers advice. This needs to be resolved.

With the Government ramping up the rhetoric of the UK being a scientific superpower to tackle climate change and achieve net zero, the engineering sector could be forgiven for asking, what about us? Rarely is the word ‘engineering’ uttered by policymakers – although I have to believe that they mean ‘and engineering’ most of the time they say science. It’s great to hear technology frequently being mentioned but it’s clear that none of the policy and societal goals will be possible without the ‘E’ in STEM also being recognised and engineers playing their part. Let’s seize the new year spirit and make a pact to turn up the volume and start talking, shouting about engineering. We ask all engineers and technicians to talk more about their work, especially to young people, parents and educators. Don’t be shy! Spread the word on what an engineering career can offer and humanise the profession. You can start small – do all your friends and relatives actually know what you are up to, are there some young people or teachers in your social circle who you could reach out to? And grow it larger, seeking out opportunities to work with schools through your employer, becoming a STEM Ambassador, or perhaps 2022 will be the year you volunteer at the Big Bang Fair! Talk to people about the tricky problems that keep you thinking at night, how it feels when you have a flash of inspiration to solve them, what a great day feels like. It’s only by having authentic conversations that others will see the wonder and satisfaction a career in engineering can offer. Engineering is for everyone and should involve everyone – we all have a stake in how our world is built, how it functions and serves society. We ask engineering organisations to offer more relevant role models to dispel outdated myths about what it is and who can do it. Remember that this helps build the talent pool that you can later recruit from and also helps those involved to crystallise the message and delivery, developing soft skills that the world of work demands. It’s important that we come together as a community and improve our approach to delivering, designing and evaluating engagement activities and share our learnings so we can coordinate our efforts to reach young people who we can affect most – like those who are under-represented in engineering or those who have never heard or met an engineer before. So what will we do? We at EngineeringUK commit to do our utmost to support your efforts and advocate on the sector’s behalf. Our Tomorrow’s Engineers website is packed with helpful resources to improve outreach. You don’t need to be an expert because we have bucketloads of careers inspiration from case studies to presentations to help individuals and tools like the measures bank and impact framework to help organisations evaluate how they are doing. All of these resources are free to access for anyone and everyone. It all draws upon our research that focuses on uncovering the impact engineering has on society or what kind of careers advice students might be missing and our public affairs work to get systemic change. We need a significant increase of engineers and technicians working across industry. Beyond growing the number, we also need to grow the diversity of people entering the engineering profession. Engineering is for everyone and should involve everyone – we all have a stake in how our world is built, how it functions and serves society. Young people, particularly those from backgrounds who don’t already have insight into what engineering entails, benefit hugely from hearing and meeting contemporary and relatable role models. This means we still need to work harder than ever to improve young people’s understanding of engineering, the breadth of modern engineering careers available and to help their influencers discover the opportunities that an engineering career could offer. What better way to start the new year than investing in young people’s futures? Dr Hilary Leevers is CEO of Engineering UK