Three myths about engineering

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If you’re an engineer, or you work for an engineering company, you’ll be aware it is an industry plagued with misconceptions. Combine this with a serious skills shortage in the UK and we’re in trouble. Engineers, and those in associated industries, must work to dispel the myths, to show young people that engineering is an exciting and innovative field.

By Ellie Clifford, account executive

This year, EngineeringUK reported an annual shortfall of up to 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians to fill core engineering roles. In addition, 46 per cent of engineering employers surveyed said they were having recruitment difficulties. So, what are the myths putting young people off a career in engineering and what can we do about them?

Engineering is not for girls
There’s no doubt the engineering industry is largely male-dominated. Young people may see engineering as a career choice more suited to males, but it is a fulfilling career that both men and women can excel at. In fact, women have been pioneers in engineering for centuries.

Take a look at Emily Roebling for example. In the 1880s, Roebling stepped in as the first woman field engineer and technical leader of the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge still holds a plaque honouring Roebling’s critical contribution to the project.  The current president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dame Ann Dowling, was the first female Professor at the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department and is working to change the perception of women in STEM.

The existing engineering community should support the WISE campaign, which helps educate young women about the opportunities available in engineering. As well as helping to decrease the gender imbalance, recruitment of more women into engineering will help the UK to overcome the skills gap. Encouragingly, we are moving in the right direction. WISE announced this week that we are set to have one million women in core science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles by 2020.

It’s engineering or the arts
Engineering is about creating solutions to real life problems and that can only be achieved with creative ideas. Companies can translate this into outreach activities to let young people know they don’t have to choose between STEM and creativity.

For example, global engineering company Renishaw works with the Bristol Music Trust to combine STEM education with music in a single activity. The Beat Lab programme gives children the opportunity to make musical instruments from fruit and vegetables, which teaches them about electrical circuits and demonstrates the role that creativity has in engineering.

A degree is essential
While there are some great engineering degrees out there, they’re not for everybody. Apprenticeships are becoming a popular way for young people to get straight into employment and learn on the job, earning while they learn.

Engineering apprenticeships give young people the chance to develop sought after skills, gain practical and relevant experience and obtain nationally recognised qualifications. It is also possible to do a fully-funded degree level apprenticeship, for those that want the best of both worlds.

Busting the myths will help us to inspire more young people into engineering careers, providing a pipeline of skilled talent for the future. For help communicating what it’s really like working as an engineer, give us a call on +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk.

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