Demystifying the world of engineering can help more young people realise their potential, drive innovation and strengthen the workforce.
Engineers and technicians have a specific skillset and play a vital role in shaping our world, from where we live and how we communicate, to what we do for leisure – and they will be central to developing the technologies essential for a greener future.
We have a longstanding shortfall in the engineering workforce that isn’t just numerical and won’t be resolved simply by encouraging more to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). A diversity of talent is being lost at each educational decision point, leading to much under-representation in engineering, most obviously of women, but also of people from certain ethnic minorities or other demographic characteristics.
The business case for harnessing and widening the talent pool is compelling. It’s not just about securing the numbers of engineers we need, it’s about improving innovation, creativity, productivity, resilience and market insight and widening the overall benefits of engineering output.
And there is an equity argument too – given how rewarding and valued engineering careers are, these opportunities should be widely available, irrespective of people’s background or geography.
There are a range of routes into engineering - including apprenticeships available up to Level 7 (equivalent to a master’s degree) and engineering employers really value the practical skills and experience gained by apprentices.
They also tend to pay above the national minimum apprentice wage, which is an added bonus for anyone taking the ‘earn as you learn’ approach to investing in their future.
Meeting real-life engineers helps young people discover how fulfilling, diverse and exciting careers in modern engineering can be. And these sorts of encounters have also been shown to motivate students to work harder. EngineeringUK works with employers to help make those encounters as frequent and impactful as possible.
Each March, The Big Bang Fair, the UK’s largest celebration of STEM for young people, sees literally tens of thousands of these encounters, with even more happening throughout the year as part of other outreach programmes. We know that young people who have participated in such activities, are more likely to know what engineers do, to perceive the profession positively and to consider a career in the industry.
We must continue to build our collaborative efforts across industry, educators and government, to grow and diversify the talent pool that we all depend upon and help young people realise their potential.