Enthusiasm for Engineering

Enthusiasm for Engineering

 

At the recent TEDxGranta conference held at The Junction in Cambridge, one talk highlighted a worrying trend in the UK today: schoolchildren don’t really know what engineering is about, and hence are unlikely to consider it as a career.

I recently gave a talk drawing upon the results of a recent survey of 11-14 year-old children carried out by Siemens and WorldSkills International.  The survey revealed that most of them thought that engineering was boring, dirty and not very important.  The survey also had a brighter side: it revealed that 83 per cent of parents would encourage their children to go into engineering. However, many parents also felt that they did not have access to enough information to be able to advise their children on a career in engineering.

This finding is really worrying. Engineers play a critical role in a balanced economy, applying new ideas to address emerging opportunities that in turn drive economic growth. If parents can’t explain and enthuse about what engineers do, children are less likely to consider engineering as a career and this means our economy may suffer in the long term.

There are excellent resources for children, teachers and parents provided by websites such as tomorrowsengineers.org.uk, nationalstemcentre.org.uk, and www.jamesdysonfoundation.co.uk. But the message still isn’t getting through strongly enough. There is a need to develop activities for engineering that mirror the way in which entrepreneurship has been transformed from the shifty image of Arthur Daley and Del Boy Trotter in the 1970s to the mainstream career option it is today. That transformation was driven in part by the success of activities such as Young Enterprise, Dragon’s Den and Global Entrepreneurship Week.

If you’d like to add your voice or suggestions to the debate on how we re-build enthusiasm for engineering among schoolchildren, please visit www.whatengineersdo.info or follow www.twitter.com/whytowow.

To view the talk, please visit the SJIC News page by clicking here.

Dr Tim Minshall (Senior Lecturer at Cambridge University Engineering Department and Non-Executive Director of St John’s Innovation Centre