Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers

Posted by Iulia Motoc on 15 January 2018

Engineering is a field which is widely misrepresented. From people's perceptions to images available on search engines, engineering is not being seen as what it actually is: a vital career for improving the quality of life and for solving world problems.

Over the past 50 years or more, engineering has become one of the core topics needed to keep up and survive in this fast paced world. We are currently living in a super connected and technological world, and engineering is the way of preserving this.

What does living in a technological world mean?

We can agree that engineering is the key to human progress. Furthermore, engineering can provide solutions to various challenges, for example environmental challenges. After all, engineering is all about solving problems that humans created in the first place.

This makes us ask how is engineering being portrayed in this connected world?

We know that everything revolves around the internet, everything we need and don't need can be found online. The problem is when the internet has the wrong view about things. Our perceptions and misconceptions are based on what we see on the online. More specifically, the surface of the internet. Searching for images of engineers will not give an accurate representation about what engineering is.

A very high percentage of people (93%) agree that engineers have at least one positive trait, in particular that engineers are intelligent, logical and fact-based people, good with maths, and creative.

However, people still have certain misconceptions when it comes to engineering. Although we think that all the negative myths about engineers, are dead, 57% of people still think engineers have negative traits. Quite a big number which will have a huge impact on the decisions of young people.

Influencing the next generation

Engineering UK[1] compiled a report in which some facts about engineering are stated. For example, only 35% of STEM teachers feel confident in giving advice regarding a career in engineering, the main reason being that maths and science lessons are covered by non-specialist teachers. However, parents tend to have more influence on the child than the teachers, and parents are less likely to recommend a career in engineering, due to the misconceptions regarding the field.

It is key that children are exposed to role models from both genders. Before 1920 [2], women were not allowed to have a higher education, and when they did get the right to go to university, the number of women choosing a higher education was very low. Soon, there were movements promoting women in higher education. Now, we have more women than men choosing to do a degree and even more graduating from a university (two thirds of graduates are women).

We must address the shortfall of engineers if we want to maintain the economic and social growth. This shortfall is currently being tackled by over 600 organisations involved in supporting engineering education. Otherwise, we risk reaching a point when we will have a population of consumers and no developers/engineers. Without engineers there will be nothing to use by the consumers.

Hebert Hoover once said:

Engineering ... it is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privilege.

References:

  1. The 2017 Engineering UK: the state of engineering report
  2. Oxford University Archives

Website: Year of Engineering

Twitter: @YoEgovuk/#YoE;

Author

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Portrait of Iulia Motoc with small humanoid robot

Iulia Motoc

Name: Iulia Motoc
Organisation: University of Kent

Iulia is a PhD candidate in Electronic Engineering, specialising in humanoid robots. She has been an Academic Ambassador for almost four years and has been involved in promoting engineering at both national and international level. Her ambassadorial work brought her the title of Engineering Ambassador of the Year during the British Engineering Excellence Awards 2017.

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