Blind spots in recruiting engineering workforce of the future

The engineering sector has “cause for optimism” as greater numbers of school leavers are showing an interest in STEM careers than ever before - but work is still needed to cultivate a more positive outlook of the engineering industry, particularly among girls.

The number of 16 to 19-year-olds contemplating a career in engineering has risen since 2016, demonstrating “compelling evidence that STEM outreach can and does work” – according to EngineeringUK latest Engineering Brand Monitor.

Schoolchildren Programming Robot Together Stem Educational Class - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Boys have more positive views of engineering than girls, even in primary school – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

It showed that almost half (45%) of school and college-age students surveyed were thinking about going into jobs in engineering after their education was finished, compared to 37% four years earlier.

Furthermore, young people embarking on careers in STEM over the previous 12 months were more than three-times as likely to consider the field of engineering than those who had not, ranking salary a one of the primary drivers.

However, improving “knowledge, perceptions and understanding of engineering” among young people is still essential, according to EngineeringUK, especially in girls who are less likely:

  • than boys to know about engineering
  • to view it positively
  • to consider a career in the industry or know what to do next in order to become an engineer
  • to believe they could become an engineer if they wanted to

What the results show

  • Majority of “key influencers” (teachers and parents) in young people’s decision making held positive views of engineering
  • 80% of STEM secondary teachers believed a career in engineering would be desirable for their pupils
  • 68% of parents believed a career in engineering would be desirable for their children
  • Salary ranks as an important factor in young people’s career choices, over and above ‘enjoyment’, ‘job security’ and ‘something that challenges me’
  • Boys have more positive views of engineering than girls, even in primary school
  • Young people who attend STEM outreach events are more likely to know what engineers do – but only a quarter of those surveyed had been to such an event
  • Engineering still lagged behind other STEM subjects with respect to young people’s industry knowledge, the extent to which they perceive engineering positively and believe it a desirable career

More than 2,500 young people, 1,000 STEM secondary school teachers and 1,800 members of the public were surveyed by EngineeringUK.

School Children Classroom STEM - Stock
Young people who attend STEM outreach events are more likely to know what engineers do.

“Young people who participate in STEM engagement activities know more about engineering and those that know more about engineering are more likely to consider a career in it,” said Dr Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK.

“Given the urgent need we have to encourage more, and more diverse, young people in engineering, we must work together to make sure that every young person has repeated opportunities to be inspired by STEM and engineering.”

Leevers added: “The latest results reveal that young people place high importance on ‘having an impact’ and ‘being valued’ when deciding upon a career – STEM outreach should emphasise the great and wide-ranging contributions that engineers make to society.

“As salary also ranks as an important factor for young people when choosing a career, compelling and accurate salary and labour market statistics should be a key part of careers advice and guidance.”

To hear more about EngineeringUK’s various learning events and programmes, click here


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