23 May, 2022

Poor education and advice must not let down tomorrow’s engineers

04 January, 2015
It may not come as a surprise to learn that the parents of thousands of talented teens offer their full support in order for their young ones to have the best opportunity of becoming the UK’s future engineering talent. Indeed, according to new research announced to mark the start of the recent Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, three quarters of parents would recommend a career in engineering to their children. Moreover, nearly half (47 per cent) of secondary school children would consider a career in engineering, with 29 per cent of them being girls. However, it would appear that many young people lack the support in schools needed to fulfil their career ambitions, and only a third (34 per cent) say they know what to do next in order to become an engineer. Disappointingly, schools may not have the information needed to support the engineering ambitions of their students. More than half (56 per cent) of GCSE science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) teachers surveyed have been asked for advice about engineering careers by their pupils in the last year, yet only a third (36 per cent) felt confident giving such advice. The findings reveal further disparities between teacher attitudes and pupil ambitions. Some 42 per cent of teachers believe pay is the most important factor to pupils when making career choices, when in fact only 15 per cent of pupils cite pay as most important. Choosing a career in something that they are interested in is the biggest influence for teens’ career choices (42 per cent), and parents agree (24 per cent). In a separate study of young engineers under 30 by EngineeringUK, a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed said they didn’t consider engineering as a possible career choice when they were at school or college and 15 per cent were discouraged by a teacher. Some 42 per cent of those that didn’t consider an engineering career would have changed their mind if they had received better careers advice, information or inspiration and 21 per cent if they had known what engineering careers involve. Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, recently stressed that engineering makes a significant contribution to UK GDP growth and engineering companies will have over 2.5 million job openings between 2012 and 2022 across a diverse range of disciplines. “We’re delighted to see that parents are so supportive of their children’s engineering ambitions at a time when their talents are much-needed; however, the findings reveal a worrying lack of school support for young people,” he said, adding that EngineeringUK urges schools to use the Tomorrow’s Engineers careers resources and website to inspire their students. The Tomorrow’s Engineers Week research showed that team work, working in a creative or inventive environment and bringing new ideas to life are what young engineers enjoy most about their job. Three quarters (76 per cent) of then felt positive about how quickly and how far they will progress in their careers. Two-fifths (41 per cent) enjoyed a pay rise within the first year of employment and 19 per cent got a promotion or increased responsibilities within 6 to 12 months of starting. Leading the industry charge is Shell, which has announced a three-year investment in the Tomorrow’s Engineers schools outreach programme of over £1 million. Chairman of Shell UK, Erik Bonino, said the energy company wanted to support and inspire a new generation of world-leading engineers and scientists who will fly the flag for British innovation. “The school children of today can create the technical solutions of the future, but only if we show them the vast range of opportunities that STEM subjects and careers can offer,” he said. As Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has observantly said, whether it’s the cars we drive, the houses we live in or the clothes we wear, engineering is everywhere. This being the case, we simply cannot permit poor support at school to hinder what is potentially a vast pool of talent and ambition just waiting for the chance to grasp a successful, lifelong career – A career that can not only prove to be rewarding and enriching for the individual, but also for the rest of us through greater invention and innovation.

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