The IET have just launched a lovely campaign called Engineer a Better World. There is also a great accompanying video which encourages children to remain curious and inquisitive. As the video plays, children are seen stopping and wondering about objects in the world around them. Although both boys and girls are shown, one of its key messages is that girls and boys can be engineers. It also highlights that 0nly 6% of engineers in the UK are female.
The video is focused on primary school aged children, which is a good idea. This is the age when we should be starting to share ideas about careers with children, and more importantly, parents.
I would also encourage you to read the accompanying report about the IET research into perceptions and understanding of engineering. Key points from the report are:
Fewer than half of parents of girls would encourage their children to consider a career in engineering, compared to two thirds of parents of boys. More than half of parents feel that engineering careers are more for boys, and children’s views are largely similar.
Two thirds of parents don’t feel they know enough to help their child if asked for advice on engineering – although the majority said they would like to know more after being shown additional information about careers in engineering and technology.
By involving parents earlier in the careers process they too can promote and feel more equipped to advise their children. If a parent thinks engineering is ‘just’ about fixing engines its understandable why they are not promoting these options to their daughters. If parents know about the many areas of engineering, the creativity and opportunities it can offer, they may be more inclined to encourage their daughters to become engineers.
Starting careers information and advice earlier allows children and parents more chance to find out about a wider variety of different careers. At the moment, these conversations occur at about the same time as young people are making choices about GCSEs and concentrating on exams (and their social life). Careers advice should be a much more sustained process over years of careers discussions and practical investigations, with emphasis placed on the skills and attributes needed to be successful in different careers.
This video, and the campaign by the IET, is a step in the right direction.