“We should be taking a collaborative approach across the industry and our universities through umbrella organisations such as Engineering UK to collectively spread the same message.”
Why do we find it so hard to get young people, especially women, interested in a career in engineering? In my experience, it is the lack of knowledge about what engineering actually is that seems to be the problem.
This came as I surprise to me. I had assumed that common misperceptions of the profession as being ‘dirty’ and a man’s world were to blame for the industry’s struggle to attract talent, but recent improvements in our PR have begun to break down these stereotypes. What remains as a barrier is the fact that, as a technical workforce, we find it difficult to succinctly express what we do as engineers.
One reason for this is the fragmentation of our industry, with universities, institutions and organisations all competing for a presence within schools, to champion their chosen field of engineering. It’s no wonder that teachers feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails and letters requesting a slot for a workshop in their busy agenda.
Instead we should be taking a collaborative approach across the industry and our universities through umbrella organisations such as Engineering UK to collectively spread the same message. We need to better educate teachers and careers advisors about what engineering means, and adapt the curriculum to put more emphasis on science and technology subjects. With primary carers having the greatest influence over young students, we need to connect with parents to reinforce the message.
I strongly believe that it is partly our responsibility as practising engineers to engage with the younger generation and equip them with the skills to successfully meet the challenges of tomorrow.
With females representing one fifth of our engineers at WSP, I am fortunate to work for a firm that shares my view and recognises the need for a diverse workforce to ensure we have the very best skills to deliver on these challenge. I work in a fantastic sector full of inspirational projects and opportunities; we just need to make sure we are telling people about it.
Claire Gott is Assistant Design Manager for the redevelopment of London Bridge station and works for WSP Group.