Teachers - the vital ingredient in creating the UK's next generation of engineers

Paul Jackson chief executive EUK

Boosting in-school knowledge of the burgeoning career opportunities in engineering is critical, says EUK's Paul Jackson.

Through our collaborative engagement programmes, EngineeringUK is working towards a goal that will ensure every 11-14 year-old experiences a valuable engineering engagement. Teachers play a crucial role in ensuring that positive messages about careers in engineering are reinforced. 

Teachers are a major influence on pupils’ subject and career decisions, with pupils often looking to them for careers advice and guidance. EngineeringUK’s Engineers and Engineering Brand Monitor found that over half of all STEM teachers, teaching Key Stage 4, have been asked for careers advice about engineering by their pupils in the past year. Understandably, teachers’ knowledge of the burgeoning opportunities available in engineering can be out-dated, however. In turn, this lack of knowledge inhibits their ability to recommend engineering careers to their pupils. 

"The misconception that engineering is ‘a career for men’ and that it is ‘not well-known’ as a career, with many STEM teachers viewing engineering as less desirable than a career as a web designer or scientist."

The Engineers and Engineering Brand Monitor found that STEM teachers’ main reasons for finding a career in engineering undesirable stems from a the misconception that it is ‘a career for men’ and that engineering is ‘not well-known’ as a career, with many STEM teachers viewing engineering as less desirable than a career as a web designer or scientist. 

Recognising this damaging gap in support and services to teachers, last month marked EngineeringUK’s very first venture with The Prince of Wales and his charities. The Prince of Wales Engineering Workshop is being developed to help equip teachers with the information they need to be able to inspire their pupils to consider careers in engineering. 

The pilot event took place with head teachers and science teachers to coincide with The Big Bang @ Westminster Kingsway College on Wednesday 2 July. Working with head teachers to shape a service that meets the needs of their staff, the initial event helped us to design a custom-made workshop with the aim of rolling it out more widely. 

The collaboration between EngineeringUK, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Prince’s Trust, Teach First and Business in the Community is a natural fit, with The Prince of Wales’ interest and understanding of the importance of engineering well-documented for over thirty-five years. On leaving the Royal Navy he persuaded the BBC to set up The Prince of Wales Award for Innovation and Production in partnership with the TV programme Tomorrow’s World, for example, and his influence is reflected in the nation’s infrastructure. 

In light of our recent collaboration, His Royal Highness sprang to mind watching the Commonwealth Games unfold this year. I’m very sure he would approve of the way in which Glasgow has made new uses out of old buildings as well as creating new purpose-made venues. 

The football stadium Hampden Park, for example, has been transformed into an athletics arena for track and field, with a newly built warm-up track at neighbouring Lesser Hampden. 70% of the games venues, including Hampden and the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre were already there, so the Commonwealth Games have scored well in sustainability terms. 

From infrastructure to transport to the energy powering the athletes’ village, the Games have been the engineering beacon of summer 2014. I’m sure the Games have been a topic of discussion in many classrooms, and initiatives like The Prince of Wales Engineering Workshop will help teachers to make the crucial link between the high profile spectacle and the engineering making it possible.   

Paul Jackson is Chief Executive of EngineeringUK