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06 Jul 2017 Young People Speak Out About Engineering. We Need to Listen - Martyn Ingram, Group Director

Martyn-News.jpgThose of us who have been around in industry for a number of years often return to the topic of the STEM skills gap. We can debate the issue as much as we like, but there is no way to get the nub of the problem without asking young people themselves how they view their future career options.

That is why I was pleased to see Jobsite’s Engineering Talent of Tomorrow report, which unearthed some fascinating insights, straight from the horse’s mouth.

According to Engineering UK there is currently a 20,000 a year shortfall of skilled talent available to our vital engineering operations.

The Jobsite survey, which spoke to teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18, revealed that while half of those youngsters would consider a career in engineering, they had little idea of how to make it happen.

63 percent of 16 to 18-year-olds didn't know what qualifications they would need to help them become engineers, and three quarters weren’t aware of work experience opportunities within engineering.

So there is much work for us all to do, across Government, education and industry. Educators need to shine a light on the engineering path right from pre-GCSE level, so youngsters get a good grasp of maths and science, Government needs to ensure the right kind of training is made available and is well sign-posted, and employers within industry need to offer meaningful apprenticeships and mentoring schemes.

Another worrying finding is that half of those teenagers surveyed believed engineering was a career largely for men. While many young women have their eye on careers that will see them have a positive impact upon society,  they don't see engineering as being part of that story. 

This is a great shame. While young people might see how a career in medicine, social work, eco-roles and teaching as having an impact upon society at large, without engineering we wouldn’t have the roads, bridges, and transport that help connect us and that have helped us establish modern civilisations. We wouldn’t have the electricity, clean water and the functioning homes, towns and cities that keep our populace healthy and comfortable. This is before we talk about the bio engineers who are changing the shape of modern medicine or the computer engineers who are leading the way in robotics and future technologies.

One of the most revealing findings in this survey – and one of the most heartening - are the reasons established engineers give for loving their job.

Young people often say a good salary is their main motivator when it comes to choosing their career path. And, of course, there is a lot of anxiety amongst youngsters around their earning prospects.

But engineers’ top five reasons for becoming an engineer are; that it is interesting, rewarding and varied work, which offers job security and professional qualifications. Pay trailed in at number five on their list of priorities. 

Engineering can be a rewarding career financially, but its greatest rewards are in its potential as a satisfying and challenging career that helps you develop yourself, and that allows you to be a part of the very stuff our exciting modern society is made of.

While we may not be going back to a time when Johnny Ball, David Bellamy and Professor Heinz Wolff brought maths, science and innovation to the young masses at tea-time, the internet gives young people access to experiments, innovations and compelling characters within the sphere of engineering, not least in easy-to-digest TED Talks like these. Take every opportunity you can to share these resources with the young people in your own circle. And if you enjoy the rewards of a career in engineering make it your business to show young people the steps you took to get there.