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Parents who understand engineering double their child’s interest in engineering careers, report finds

Professional Engineering

78% of young people who regularly do STEM activities with their parent said they were interested in a career in engineering (Credit: Shutterstock)
78% of young people who regularly do STEM activities with their parent said they were interested in a career in engineering (Credit: Shutterstock)

Young people whose parents said they know what engineers do are more than twice as likely to express an interest in an engineering career than those whose parents do not, a new report has found.

Based on responses from more than 4,000 young people and their parents, the latest Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM) from EngineeringUK found that young people’s perceptions of engineering are strongly associated with their parents’ opinion of the sector.

Nearly nine in 10 young people whose parents said they were confident giving their child advice about careers in engineering said they were interested in a career in engineering, while 78% of young people who regularly do STEM activities with their parent said they were interested in a career in engineering.

Gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity and region all influence knowledge of what engineers do and how to become one, the report found. Only 48% of girls said they know what engineers do, compared to 61% of boys, while young people from lower income families are less likely to be interested in engineering, with only 43% of young people from a lower income and level of education reporting interest, compared to 65% of young people from a higher income and level of education family. 

Where children live also influences their knowledge of engineering ‘pathways’, the annual survey found. Teenagers in London are twice as likely to know what subjects or qualifications they need to become an engineer (60%) than young people in the West Midlands (30%).

“As the world emerges from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for engineering talent is intensifying,” said Dr Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK. “Ambitions to ‘level up’ the country and make the UK a science superpower and an innovation nation will be hugely dependent on our engineering and tech workforce, as will achieving ‘net zero’ by 2050. 

“Our research continues to highlight the need for more to be done to ensure engineering is, and is seen as, an inclusive career for all. Showing parents and young people… the breadth of exciting engineering careers available will be paramount if we want to encourage more young people from all backgrounds to join the engineering workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

The engineering sector currently draws its skills from a very narrow section of society – only 16.5% of the engineering workforce are women, compared to 47.7% of the entire national workforce, and 11.4% are from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to 13.4% of the overall workforce. 

The report findings show a strong association between engagement in STEM activities and an interest in a future career in engineering, but access to such activities varies between schools – those with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals were less likely to run STEM activities. Students who had attended one or more STEM careers activities were three-and-a-half-times more likely to know about what engineers do than those who had not attended any, and were more likely to consider an engineering career.

Young people who know more about what engineers do are more likely to perceive the profession in a positive way and to consider a career in engineering, the survey found.

Other findings include: 

  • Just 56% of parents agreed they know about the different types of things engineers could do in their jobs
  • More than half of young people said they know about the things engineers do, and that they are interested in pursuing a career in engineering – but only two-fifths know how to get into engineering
  • More boys than girls see engineering as a good fit for them, with the research finding that two-thirds of girls feel they face more barriers than boys
  • More barriers were perceived for those from ethnic minority backgrounds and socially disadvantaged groups than their counterparts.

A separate report on the responses of teachers can be found on the EngineeringUK website

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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