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Less Talk, More Action Is Needed To Get Young People Into Engineering

02/11/2016 15:37

Enough is enough. I'm fed up of hearing "we need more engineers", "only 9% of the engineering workforce is female" [1], or "why are female students not taking physics at A Level?". I've seen the statistics and I've listened to the experts. It's all well and good to point out the problems facing the engineering industry and the flaws in our education system, but what are we going to do about it?

Less talk, more action - that's what I say.

Engineering is problem solving: using applied mathematics and design to create, innovate, improve and maintain. This combination of maths and design is fundamental to so many things in our everyday lives. Everything around us has been engineered, yet it is still misunderstood by many. I suspect it is this misunderstanding that creates the problems I keep hearing about.

I believe that many of the public perceptions of engineering are in black and white, when we live in a world of colour. The wonders of engineering are out there, we just need to let everyone know about them.

As much as I love engineering now, it was never on my career radar as a child. I had no real contact with engineers who openly talked about their work.

From a young age I was determined to be a veterinarian, inspired by my love for the TV programme, Animal Hospital. I wanted to help sick animals and nurse them back to health. But after work experience in a local veterinary practice (and the realisation that I did not react well to blood), I found out much later that many of the instruments used in this industry were created and developed by engineers. Engineers who had helped to solve problems for vets, who in turn help sick animals.

There are so many people who don't understand, like 12 year old me, and don't know the extent of the problems that engineers solve. These people could be our future engineers, our future workforce and our future students inspired to study maths and science at A Level.

For us to influence the future of engineering we need to act now. Let's create more learning opportunities of engineering for our children. Let's use more campaigns to change public perceptions. In schools, why don't we show children what engineering is through more practical lessons in science?

Without the encouragement, we're not only heading for a country lacking the numbers of skilled engineers that it needs to design the next Shard or create wheelchairs of the future, we're denying our children and young people the exciting, well-paid and creative careers that engineers enjoy.

I urge you to tell everyone and anyone: engineering is all around us. Engineering is the warm shower you have in the morning. Engineering is the smartphone you use everyday. Engineering is the home that you live in. We need to encourage children to look around them and realise engineering is an exciting career to be a part of.

The Engineering Is campaign launches this Thursday - a great place to start.

[1] Skills & Demands from Industry - 2015 Survey, IET

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