Engineering outreach to inspire the next generation

Mar 7, 2022

By Eleanor Eyre, Head of Careers at EngineeringUK

This week we’re celebrating National Careers Week, which is focusing on empowering positive change through careers education. And that’s what my role as Head of Careers at EngineeringUK is all about – to help inspire young people about engineering careers and the opportunities that are out there for them to make a difference to the world.

As a qualified careers adviser, I’ve spent time working with secondary school students over the years and have found that often they are unaware of the breadth and scope of the engineering sector and the fact that engineering is a part of so many aspects of our lives. I joined EngineeringUK to try and help change young people’s perception of engineering and to make sure the UK has all the engineers it needs in order to adapt and thrive in the coming decades.

Engineering outreach is so important to inspire the next generation of engineers, but if you’ve ever spoken to a classroom of young people, you know what a tough crowd they can be. To help those doing the outreach, I’ve pulled out some top tips to consider when engaging with young people and talking to them about a career in engineering in an exciting way:

  • Speak about your own background and career history, who you are, what you do, what motivates you and what’s inspired you. Contextualise your career – what point are you at and where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time? Students want to meet the whole person – not just the part related to your current job role.
  • Try to link your work to themes that resonate with young people. Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) are passionate about societal issues that affect them, including:
    • climate change
    • wellbeing – also linked to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic
    • inequality (poverty, homelessness, health, education, discrimination)
    • online presence, safety and security
  • Highlight how broad and diverse the engineering sector is. Show young people that whatever they are interested in – be it games, the environment, health, sport, food & drink, fashion or space – there is engineering involved. The ‘Engineer your future’ PowerPoint presentation has been developed for practitioners to inspire young people and showcase different engineering sectors.
  • It’s important to ensure students are aware that there are lots of different routes into engineering, such as vocational qualifications (including the new T Level qualifications), apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and degrees, so do explain that there’s a route for everyone into engineering. Maths and science (especially physics) are important, but students don’t need to be at the top of the class in these subjects. Stress that there are other useful subjects too, including design and technology (D&T), computing, art, geography and languages.
  • Highlight the skills that engineers use to show young people that they already possess and use these skills, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, logic, creativity, learning from ‘failure’ and adapting. The online Meet the future you careers quiz helps students work out how their own skills and interests relate to different types of engineering.
  • Discuss motivating factors for career decision-making. Some people might be excited at the prospect of a career that pays well, while others will want to make a positive contribution to society or have opportunities for travel. Ask students what motivates them and highlight that engineering is a career with a good starting salary, excellent career prospects and the means to pursue their passion.
  • It’s really important to create an open environment, acknowledging everyone and doing your best to include everyone – if it’s face-to-face, ask people at the back of the class as well, and be mindful of different learning styles and preferences for participation. Think about your language – try not to use jargon and use gender neutral language.

If you’re interested in some more tips and advice on how to inspire young people into engineering, take a look at the new webinar ‘Talking about engineering careers with young people’.


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