Full STEM ahead!

Paul Jackson, CEO of EngineeringUK, organiser of the Big Bang Fair, raves about the success of the nation’s biggest STEM careers fair and urges employers to capitalise on it through collaboration.

 

Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO
Paul Jackson, CEO, EngineeringUK

In five short years, The Big Bang Fair has established itself as the UK’s flagship careers event for science and engineering.

A record 70,000 visitors registered to attend the free event at The NEC in Birmingham on March 13-16 this year. It’s now the UK’s largest youth event for 11-14 year-olds – an amazing feat for a careers fair.

More than 170 organisations from the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) take part in The Big Bang Fair.

This is because, like us, they see that it is vital to inspire the next generation to be our future scientists and engineers.

The UK needs to 87,000 engineers per year to meet 2020 demand and we are committed to working with the wider engineering community – government, business and industry, education and professional bodies – to close the skills gap.

The fair’s rapid growth is positive indication that we’re on the right track.

Over the last few years, we have seen a sea change in public attitude which shows that young people, teachers and parents want to find out more about the opportunities available in these growing and vital industries.

With the vast range of activities, shows and exhibits on offer, the fair provides an inspirational introduction to the world of science and engineering. And the inspiration is underpinned by robust careers information and resources, developed in partnership with employers and professional bodies.

What the fair’s example clearly shows is that the key to making a lasting national impact is collaboration.

In the past, every learned society and company created its own bit of education outreach, resulting in lots of stuff and not enough impact.

There is an important role for business and industry to support schools in their understanding of how the subjects they study apply to the world of work and to keep teachers up-to-date with current business practices.

The Big Bang and Tomorrow’s Engineers – another EngineeringUK programme – reach upward of 150,000 young people a year, with a 50/50 split between boys and girls – this five times the number of calls received by the National Careers Service in 2013, but we could reach thousands more with more employer support.

We know that collaborative engagement works. Last year, when we measured our programmes’ impact on young people, we found that they significantly increased the appeal of science and engineering careers.

For example, before The Big Bang Fair 63% said a career in science was appealing and 31% engineering.

After the fair, this increased to 83% and 53% respectively. Furthermore, 53% of young people who have taken part in a Tomorrow’s Engineers activity, say they know what engineers do compared to a national average of 30%.

I don’t want to be talking about the STEM skills shortfall in another ten years, by which time it will be too late for many industries, for the UK economy and for a generation of young people with STEM talent.

This means joined-up action now – get involved and play your part.