Engineering still failing to engage with next generation

Posted on 5 Oct 2011 by The Manufacturer

The engineering sector must do more to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of children if the skills shortage is to be addressed, according to a new report by Siemens.

Responses from 500 11-14 year olds and 1,000 of their parents highlight the industry’s ongoing need to alter some current perceptions. It must also continue in its objective to reposition engineering in the minds of schoolchildren as an exciting and fulfilling modern career choice for a high technology age.

Key findings from the report:

• Poll finds only 1 in 10 children think engineering is ‘important’ – behind politicians and lawyers
• 40% of children believe engineering is ‘dirty’ or ‘smelly’
• More girls than boys are considering engineering as a potential career
• Children and parents plea for more information on what engineering jobs can offer
• Industry needs to up the ante to turn engineering doubters into career advocates

At a time when industry commentators say more needs to be done to dispel the myths about an engineering career so the current under resource of engineering talent can be reversed, the findings of this study reveal the target group – the schoolchildren of today – still carry big reservations. At its heart appears to be a plea from teenagers and their parents for a better and more informed picture about what an engineering career in 21st century Britain can entail in terms of opportunity and reward.

More information please, say parents
An overwhelming majority of 83% of parents said they would encourage their children into engineering, reasoning that they would ‘earn good money’ and that it was ‘an important job’. However, of those that wouldn’t encourage their kids down this career path the main reason given was a lack of knowledge about the sector and the opportunities it presents. Indeed, nearly 75% of parents said they didn’t feel as if they had enough knowledge to give good advice on pursuing a career in engineering, when compared to other professions. A timely signal here perhaps that both parents and children should be the targets of information and messages of encouragement from the industry if progress is to be made.

Juergen Maier, managing director, Siemens Industry Sector UK, comments: “The findings of the poll make interesting reading. It highlights that all stakeholders must continue to rigorously promote the opportunities presented by a career in engineering if we are to fully engage with both children and parents. Our survey reveals we still have some way to go to persuade large numbers of children about the merits of engineering and the challenging, fulfilling and rewarding career it can deliver. As a nation we lag well behind countries like Germany in creating technicians and vocationally qualified people to meet our future needs.”