The Department for Education's official figures this year revealed that 96% of girls who study Physics at GCSE don't progress onto studying it at A Level.
Whilst the figure may represent this year's results, the lack of young people in the UK progressing on to study STEM subjects has long been an issue. It's therefore understandable then why I'm sat in a small lecture hall learning about 'fluid mechanics', surrounded by predominantly male students.
This 'leaky pipeline' issue must be addressed. Having only written an essay on this for my Science Policy module only a few months ago I can now appreciate how concerning this really is.
According to EngineeringUK (the founders of Tomorrow's Engineers Week), there will be an expected 2.56 million job openings in engineering companies up to 2022. 257,000 of these jobs aren't even known yet.
Britain has a long tradition of engineering breakthroughs (from projects ranging from the industrial revolution to creating the first underground network) but we risk falling into the trap of lagging behind other countries that heavily invest into STEM. There really is a mounting requirement for engineers now more than ever, and in order to meet the needs by 2030, we must act now.
Don't delay, pursue engineering today
Tomorrow's Engineers Week, the campaign I'm fronting this year alongside Lily France, aims to do just that. Together, we're dispelling myths around engineering and in doing so, hopefully inspiring young people to consider it as career option. Recent research from the Your Life campaign found that 24% of girls look up to YouTubers such as Zoella and Alfie Deyes, so myself and Lily will hopefully be able to reciprocate this, whilst teaching them something that is relevant, interesting and inspiring.
I for one want to show young people how interesting chemical engineering is. Someone who's already doing it for the world of mechanics and automotive engineering is YouTube vlogger Lord Aleem. With over 204k followers on YouTube, his videos regarding supercar performance are informing the audience of the mechanics and engineering that goes behind the monstrous 560 brake-horse power Audi RS7 for example. I want to achieve something similar, not only with cars, but with a whole range of products, brands, and interests.
Lily and I will be travelling up and down the country, interviewing the engineers behind some of the UK's top brands and iconic products, offering exclusive insights into future tech, hopefully alongside some well known faces too. Spread the word and join us, and maybe you'll help us bridge the engineering skills gap!
As an engineer one question I often ask myself is why wouldn't young people want to study engineering? Girls who study Science or Maths at A level earn on average over a third more than those who don't. And recent engineering and technology graduates earn 16% more than those with other degree qualifications. However the question is do you know that? Does your child?
There being phenomenal incentives for young people to become engineers, coupled with the skill shortage we now face (alongside the potential skill crisis we're currently walking into), engineering now seems quite an enticing career option doesn't it?
But what can we do?
Having seen first hand, numerous young people including my family and friends who are being turned off from studying STEM subjects at an early stage is concerning (and quite upsetting strictly from a Chemical Engineering student perspective). So it's rudimentary we act with urgency, and in a manner to spark interest while inspiring them to consider engineering careers.
You can follow my vlog at youtube.com/tomorrowsengineers.