Understanding the challenge

Jul 8, 2022

By Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK

We’re planning our next 5-year strategy at EngineeringUK, and I wanted to share some of the background thinking that we’ve found thought-provoking and helpful in developing our ambitions for 2023 to 28. I’ll be talking about this work and asking for input at the Tomorrow’s Engineers Live conference, taking place on Monday 11 July.

Let’s increase our impact

Back in 2020, we published an Impact Framework, developed with New Philanthropy Capital with input from others, to try and capture the system within which our engineering engagement takes place. We use it at EngineeringUK to help us more clearly and consistently articulate the intended impact of our work and evaluate ourselves against these goals. And we hope that others, including Tomorrow’s Engineers Code Signatories, find it useful.

The impact framework identifies key audiences, including teachers, careers advisors and professionals, organisations and individuals involved in the funding, design or delivery of engineering engagement, parents and carers, and, of course, young people themselves. It also identifies the impact we may wish to have on different audiences – for example, that more teachers help their students to engage with engineering.

We’ve recently built on the impact framework by proposing a mechanism to achieve the desired outcome for each audience identified in the framework. Ultimately, we suggest, that if all of these things happen, young people would have a good opportunity to progress into engineering or technology.

Some of our proposals are based on what we think are reasonable suggestions – for example, we suggest that every primary school should have one teacher who promotes engineering and tech activities across the school. Others are more evidence based – for example, extrapolating from recommendations in the Gatsby Careers Benchmarks, we suggest that students should have 3 to 4 STEM engagements in secondary school with engineering and tech content. All of them are up for discussion and testing.

Improving our collective understanding

This thinking gets interesting when we start putting a number against the activity needed for each audience. We’ve used order of magnitude estimates so we don’t get bogged down in the maths, but instead think through the implications. In the examples above – this would mean that, collectively, the sector would need to be working with about 20,000 primary school teachers on the one hand and delivering over 2 million STEM engagements in secondary schools on the other.

We’ll be sharing more of this thinking at Tomorrow’s Engineers Live and on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website after that. For now, I wanted to share how it’s helped us. We can’t help but notice the size of the numbers generated and the scale of delivery needed across the sector. This has reinforced for us the importance of valuing the work of all organisations seeking to inspire young people with and into engineering and technology. We really need to be supporting each other as much as we can!

It’s also highlighted the benefit we would have from better understanding what we all do and coordinating more effectively. At an organisational level, we, at EngineeringUK, are also using these large numbers to concentrate our minds on where we want to put our effort in to make a substantive difference, and where we will step back and support others instead.

Recognising the scale of delivery needed as a whole has also encouraged us to think in different ways about how we might target our efforts most effectively. This is also a conversation we’ll be having at Tomorrow’s Engineers Live on Monday, led by STEM Learning’s CEO, Yvonne Baker. We hope to see many of you there, and to pick up the conversation in other ways over the coming months.

Creating a lasting impact

If we want to secure the workforce of the future, we need to challenge engineering misconceptions and stereotypes. We must be thoughtful about how we balance our desire to reach all young people on the one hand, with targeting those from groups under-represented in engineering and technology on the other, especially given that the latter will likely need more thoughtful tailoring and repeated encounters. The scale of this challenge means that we must all pull together and value and support each other’s efforts, and the Code provides a great mechanism for us to do so.

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