Earlier in the year we produced a research report which stated that just seven per cent of parents thought engineering would appeal to their daughters.
The research also showed that parents could be limiting their child's future career decisions by having outdated perceptions of the jobs they think boys and girls are interested in.
I find it frustrating that so many girls could be potentially missing out on creative and fulfilling careers in engineering because they're not hearing about the possibilities from their key influencers.
In an ideal world, as well as parents, schools would also be responsible for informing children, especially girls, about engineering from an early age. But of course this is not always the case, with a range of subjects competing for prominence in school syllabuses.
Of course, schools do focus on subjects which are crucial to the foundations of engineering such as maths and science. But, I think the link between the core subjects and the exciting, creative and diverse careers within engineering which may have appealed to women, is made too late or not at all. This in turn could be a reason for the lack of girls considering a job in the industry.
This brings me to ask, what can other organisations do to help solidify the link between STEM subjects and engineering? Promisingly, recent IET research shows that 72 per cent of parents said if they were exposed to more information about engineering as a career option they would encourage their children to consider pursuing one. This could have a staggering impact then if we, as industry professionals, took responsibility for this and provided them with informative resources. Similarly, 71 per cent of children say they would be interested in an engineering career when shown inspirational information about the creativity and breadth of opportunities within the industry. So, surely we should be using this insight to show off the amazing jobs in engineering?
With this in mind, we need to support schools, parents and, young people by giving them opportunities and information which could inspire them. This month, the IET has launched the Engineering Open House Day in the UK to support of its Engineer a Better World campaign. The IET has joined forces with some rather impressive venues, such as the Royal Opera House, ITN Studios and many more, in order to showcase the exciting career options an engineering job could hold.
The nationwide events are taking place on 31 July and will be a fantastic opportunity for parents and young people to fully immerse themselves in an engineering experience. Most importantly, attendees will have the chance to speak directly to engineering experts to find out more about their career backgrounds and why the industry appealed to them.
We know that more can be done to demonstrate the links between theory and practice of STEM disciplines, and Engineering Open House Day helps to support this. I feel it is important for organisations to take matters in to their own hands by offering extra-curricular activities like this. Open Doors initiatives are an invaluable way of introducing people to sectors which they may have otherwise known little or nothing about.
There is no easy solution to bridge the skills gap the industry faces. But I hope that Engineering Open House Day will spark interest and inspiration in a number of young minds for many years to come helping to generate the talent and skills the industry needs for the future.
To find out more about the events on offer and how to register for a place at the IET's Engineering Open House Day, please visit: http://www.engineer-a-better-world.org/engineering-open-house-day.