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New report uncovers parents’ influence on young people on attitudes to engineering

Published: 27/04/2022

Text reads 'EngineeringUK Engineering Brand Monitor'. EngineeringUK logoEngineeringUK logo, text reads 'Engineering Brand Monitor parents and students'Young people’s perceptions of engineering are strongly associated with their parents’ opinion of engineering, according to EngineeringUK’s latest Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM). For the first time, the Engineering Brand Monitor has linked the responses from over 4,000 young people and their parents. It highlights:

  • young people whose parents said they know what engineers do were more than twice as likely to express an interest in an engineering career than those whose parents said they did not
  • 78% of young people whose parents said they regularly do Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities with their child said they were interested in a career in engineering
  • nearly 9 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

This year’s results suggest that knowledge of what an engineer does and how to become an engineer, as well as perceptions and interest in the profession, varies by not only by gender, but also socio-economic background, ethnicity and region. The report found:

  • Only 48% of girls say they know what engineers do, compared to 61% of boys.
  • Young people from lower income families are less likely to be interested in engineering. Only 43% of young people from families with lower incomes and lower levels of education reported an interest in engineering, compared to 65% of young people from families with higher incomes and higher levels of education.
  • Where you live can influence your knowledge of engineering pathways. Teenagers in London are twice as likely as young people in the West Midlands to know what subjects or qualifications they need to become an engineer (60% compared to 30%).

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. Meanwhile 11.4% of the engineering workforce are from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared to 13.4% of the overall workforce.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, said:

“As the world emerges from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for engineering talent is intensifying. 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 first-hand 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.”

Evidence shows that young people who know more about what engineers do are more likely to perceive the profession positively and to consider a career in engineering - STEM outreach and educational activities are critical in this context. Students who had attended one or more STEM careers activity were 3.5 times more likely to know what people working in engineering did, compared with those who hadn’t attended any. They were also 3.4 times more likely to consider an engineering career than those who hadn’t attended a STEM careers activity.

While the report findings show a strong association between engagement in STEM activities and an interest in a future career in engineering, access to such activities varies between schools. One in five young people had not taken part in any careers activities in the past 12 months, and schools with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals are less likely to run STEM activities.

The EBM is an annual survey of the knowledge, perceptions and understanding of engineering of young people (aged 7-19), their parents, and teachers. The survey was completed by 4,317 child-parent pairs between April and May 2021. A separate report on the responses of teachers can be found on the EngineeringUK website