Films and celebrities are among the most powerful influences on young people considering a career in engineering. New research from Career Academies UK, a charity that helps young people prepare for the world of work, has found that blockbusters like Iron Man, Transformers and Star Wars help project a positive image of engineering to potential students.
When it comes to celebrities, Stephen Hawking (57%) was ranked as the most inspirational figure in prompting young people to take an interest in science and engineering, with Professor Brian Cox second at 46%, followed by Top Gear star James May and comedian Dara O’Briain.
The survey was conducted among students currently enrolled in the charity’s Career Academy programmes, running in more than 140 schools and colleges across the UK. Nearly one third of the charity’s students are in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Career Academy. It coincides with the start (Monday 4th Nov) of the Tomorrow’s Engineers Week campaign to change outdated perceptions about engineering careers among young people, their parents and teachers.
Despite the modern technology which dominates today’s engineering, it is still seen as a dirty, outdoors career best suited to men (33%). The majority of the students (78%) said they have not received enough careers advice on engineering, and only 20% could name a famous engineer (Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the most popular answer).
Nearly half of respondents (47%) recognised that engineering opens up a wide range of job opportunities, but nearly 40% never considered it as a career and the same proportion thought they needed a top degree to enter the profession.
Anne Spackman, Executive Director, Careers Academies UK, said: “Engineering is an area rich in job opportunities but lacking the skilled workers to fill them. Career Academies UK is helping to grow the number of potential recruits through its 50 STEM programmes in schools across the country. Engineering is hugely important to the UK economy yet many people don’t realise the impact it has on our daily lives.
“We are working with a range of employers to help students experience engineering through internships and hopefully inspire them to choose this rewarding career path.”
For further information about Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and to find out how to get involved, visit www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk.