If you were asked to draw a scientist, what would it look like? An image resembling Einstein, perhaps? Same question; but this time an engineer. Would you draw a man with a spanner? And would a computer scientist look like a guy who's keen on science fiction and junk food, working alone in a dark room?
While there's no doubt that the country has come a long way in terms of gender equality in the workplace, there are still industries where women are significantly under represented. If we look at the engineering sector, for example, only 8% of engineers in the UK are women . In fact, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe.
Increasing evidence and scientific analysis is showing why these events are associated with human induced climate change. The related impacts are becoming more widespread and complex, affecting society from health issues to agriculture, from transportation to economics, and becoming more severe, long-lasting and costly with increasing frequency.
We've learnt recently that although growth in job vacancies hit the fastest rate in 15 years in November this year (the strongest demand being for engineers) and the UK unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009, the availability of candidates to fill permanent and temporary posts fell in November; a continuation of the recent trend.
It's also an unfortunate fact of recessionary Britain that, with each vacancy often drawing hundreds of applicants, it's largely safe to say there are fewer jobs than there are job seekers. There are, of course, a few notable exceptions and - given a certain understandable bias on my part - it's pleasing to note that the engineering industry is one of them.
The challenge now is for schools, universities, business and Government join us in making sure that the potential engineers of the future are informed, without prejudice, of all the opportunities available to them. We need to work together to provide the advice and support all young people need to make informed decisions at an early age.
In choosing a future career, do you find yourself torn between balancing your creative nature, your love of words and communication with an interest in science and technology? Do you dream big and feel you might be capable of bringing people together to navigate difficult decisions that have to be made in pursuit of the solutions to the great global challenges posed by poverty, economic crisis and climate change?
Startling research released to mark the start of Tomorrow's Engineers Week should be a wake up call to employers, educators and the engineering industry to encourage more young people into engineering careers. Everyone who is passionate about apprenticeships, the future of our economy and young people's careers should be concerned that our school children may be rejecting engineering as a career choice because they don't know enough about it. Girls in particular aren't attracted to engineering as a career option.