How telling your story can inspire future engineers

Nov 5, 2021

Rainbow coloured tunnel walkway

By Tamzin Caffrey, Head of Communications, EngineeringUK

I once read somewhere that trying to imagine a career is like trying to visualise a colour you’ve never seen. I often come back to this. How do you explain the world of work to someone who is still at school? How can we help a 12 year old see that it’s the principles they’re learning about in science that mean they can stream shows on Netflix? And how can we explain what your job is if you’re the person applying those principles every day?

This is part of the challenge if we want youngsters to understand what a career in engineering could look like. In the same way it’s difficult to imagine a new colour, it’s hard to get your head around what engineers do if you’ve never met one.

We want to demystify engineering to young people, many of whom have no engineers in their social or family circles, to give them an insight into what working in engineering really means.

The more industry professionals are able to say ‘I’m an engineer and this is what I do at work’ or ‘I’m a technician and this is what I did today’, the more chance there is young people will start to imagine themselves doing something similar in the future. And that doesn’t have to be ‘I’m an engineer and I changed the world today’. It doesn’t have to be that grand. It just needs to be authentic and easy to understand.

I’ve been helping to tell these stories for a fair few years now and so many of the people we showcase feel they’re just doing their job, just getting on with things. They don’t think they’re special, but we do. Because in sharing their story they’re giving us the chance to change someone’s thinking. And who knows where that might lead?

The annual Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (#TEWeek21) campaign generally has a theme and given this year it falls in the second week of COP26, the focus is naturally on those engineers working towards net zero. But, as is the case every November, it’s not just about what we’re doing at EngineeringUK. It’s about all engineers, all technicians, all engineering apprentices, students, employers and champions talking about what engineering is for them.

The Week is an opportunity for individual engineering professionals in every part of the UK to lift the lid on engineering and give young people – and their teachers and parents – a glimpse of what it means to be an engineer. How? By talking about what they do.

What inspires one person could go unnoticed by the person next to them, which is exactly why we need more stories, more examples, more faces, more voices to bring engineering to life.

We have some fantastic case studies to share with young people throughout the year and we celebrate each of them, not because the individuals are at the pinnacle of their career, work for at FTSE 100 company or rub shoulders with the stars, but because they have a story to tell. I want every young person who browses our case studies to find someone they can relate to, to find an aspect of someone’s story that speaks to them.

You have made the journey we want young people to imagine for themselves. You’ve gone from being in science and maths lessons to building your skills and deepening your understanding after school, from realising what interests you most to applying what you’ve learnt in your day-to-day work. In telling that story, you can help students in school today imagine what an engineering career could look like for them and – this is such an important part of the process - what the steps towards that future could be.

Each journey, each story is unique. Think about your interests, your inspiration, your journey, your knock-backs, your lucky breaks, your team, your work, your aspirations, your successes, your ambition, your experience – these all shape your story. It’s not about thinking you’re special, it’s about being yourself.

If you’re ready to tell your story, we’d love to share it. Social media is definitely your friend in this scenario. It’s quick and easy to post something about what you do. It can feel a bit weird when you first share this kind of thing, so if you feel hesitant, just start small. We’ve got Tomorrow’s Engineers Week templates where you can just fill in the blanks and upload. Or if you’re up for it, you could record yourself on your phone and share a few seconds of you talking about your job. Post using #TEWeek21 and we’ll see it as part of the campaign. Beyond social, maybe there’s a platform at work that you would use? Are you a STEM Ambassador or could you become one and speak directly to young people?

Seeing social media flooded with posts, pictures and stories from engineers and technicians talking about what they do is one of my favourite things about Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and I hope that sharing your story is one of your favourite things this year.

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