The Big Bang Fair

Posted on 16 Dec 2011 by Tim Brown

The Big Bang Fair is one of the biggest events on the industry skills agenda each year attracting thousands of school children and highlighting exciting industry career routes. In the run up to the event in March 2012 TM has partnered with organisers, EngineeringUK to deliver a monthly diary piece updating readers on progress with registered attendees and associated competitions. Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO, delivers this first diary entry.

Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO
Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO

I’ve been waiting for a long time to write that public attitudes to manufacturing and engineering are changing dramatically. It feels great to write and there is growing evidence to back it up as schools and the general public sign up in droves for next year’s Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, a heartland for much UK’s manufacturing.

Why is this important? The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair is the UK’s largest single celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for young people. Aimed exclusively at young people, every aspect of the Fair shows them how rewarding and interesting careers in these sectors can be. Twenty five thousand people have already signed up for 2012 and will get the opportunity to meet with apprentices and young graduates from some of Britain’s best known manufacturers.

The fair also plays host to the finals of the National Science & Engineering Competition, which this year saw several hundred young people compete for a range of prizes, culminating in the award of the UK Young Scientist and UK Young Engineer of the Year.

We know from independent evaluation that The Big Bang is engaging, educating and inspiring young people at a pivotal time in their education, when their subject choices determine their future careers. Fifty one per cent of pupils and 63% of teachers attending the fair in 2011 believe a career in engineering to be desirable – compared to “all UK” figures where the equivalent figures are 26% of 12-16 year-olds and 47% of teachers.

In only its third year, the fair attracted 29,000 visitors to London’s ExCeL and we look set to exceed our target of 35,000 visitors at next year’s event at the NEC in Birmingham from 15 – 17 March. The Big Bang Fair is unique in uniting 150+ different organisations with the shared aim of inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. The programme represents an unparalleled partnership between government, education, industry and the wider science and engineering communities.

Much more than a one off event, the Big Bang is a year-round conversation with young people, their parents and teachers. The Big Bang Near Me events provide an opportunity for more young people to experience, close to home, the excitement and opportunities available through STEM. In 2011 local businesses and organisations joined forces to ensure that around 17,000 young people and their teachers took part in an event in their area.

The Big Bang is a great example of what we can achieve when the wider community joins forces. Our ambitions for the Big Bang are challenging – a Fair in every city so that every child in the UK will be, or will know someone, involved with the programme. We’re looking for a sustainable model to reach more young people, teachers and parents. The Big Bang has been recognised in a succession of awards, at the most recent of which – the Guardian Social Enterprise Awards – I was asked what keeps me awake at night about the programme. My answer was twofold – ensuring the financial sustainability of the programme and, more immediately, wondering how we will accommodate demand to attend if the early booking trend continues at its current pace.

I believe that the Big Bang wins the hearts and changes the minds of our future scientists and engineers and that our vision is within our reach. If you share our belief that working together is the way to make a positive impact on the lives of young people – our future workforce – get in touch and find out how you can get involved with The Big Bang, either at a national level or through one of our growing number of local fairs. It can have a great impact and you’ll really enjoy it too!