28 April 2022

Report uncovers parents’ influence on young people on attitudes to engineering

Young people’s perceptions of engineering are strongly associated with their parents’ opinion of engineering, according to EngineeringUK’s latest Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM).

Jeswin Thomas/Unsplash
© Jeswin Thomas/Unsplash

For the first time, the EBM has linked the responses from over 4,000 young people and their parents.

It highlights that young people whose parents said they know what engineers do were more than twice as likely to express an interest in an engineering career than those whose parents said they did not.

78% of young people whose parents said they regularly do STEM activities with their child said they were interested in a career in engineering and nearly nine in ten young people whose parents said they were confident giving their child advice about careers in engineering said they were interested in a career in engineering.

The EBM also suggests knowledge of what an engineer does and how you become an engineer as well as perceptions and interest in the profession, varies by not only by gender, but also socio-economic background, ethnicity and region. The report found that:

  • Only 48% of girls say they know what engineers do, compared to 61% of boys.
  • Young people from lower income families are less likely to be interested in engineering, with only 43% of young people from a lower income and level of education family reporting interest compared to 65% of young people from a higher income and level of education family.
  • Where you live can influence your knowledge of engineering pathways. Teenagers in London are twice as likely to know what subjects or qualifications they need to become an engineer than young people in the West Midlands (60% compared to 30%).
  • The engineering sector currently draws its skills from a very narrow section of society, only 16.5% of the engineering workforce, in fact, are women compared to 47.7% of the entire national workforce, and 11.4% are from minority ethnic backgrounds compared to 13.4% of the overall workforce.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, explains, ‘As the world emerges from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for engineering talent is intensifying. Ambitions to ‘level up’ the country and make the UK a science superpower and an innovation nation will be hugely dependent on our engineering and tech workforce, as will achieving net-zero by 2050.

‘Our research continues to highlight the need for more to be done to ensure engineering is, and is seen as, an inclusive career for all.

‘Showing parents and young people first-hand the breadth of exciting engineering careers available will be paramount if we want to encourage more young people from all backgrounds to join the engineering workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century.’

The report findings show there is a strong association between engagement in STEM activities and an interest in a future career in engineering, but access to such activities varies between schools, with those with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals less likely to run STEM activities. In particular, one in five young people had not taken part in any careers activities in the past 12 months.

Evidence shows that young people who know more about what engineers do are more likely to perceive the profession in a positive way and to consider a career in engineering.

It also shows that STEM outreach and education activities are critical in this context. Students who had attended any (one or more) STEM careers activity were 3.5 times more likely to know about what people working in engineering did than those who had not attended any. They were also 3.4 times more likely than those who had not attended a STEM careers activity to consider a career in engineering.

EBM is an annual survey of the knowledge, perceptions and understanding of engineering of young people, their parents, and teachers. For the first time responses from parents and young people aged seven to 19 were linked together and the association between them examined. The survey was completed by 4,317 child-parent pairs between April and May 2021.

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