Why we asked engineers to bake for National Engineering Day

Nov 2, 2022

By the Royal Academy of Engineering

What have mobile phones, hearing aids, the UK’s tallest building, The Shard, vaccines, and a Victoria sandwich cake got in common?

They’re all the product of engineering.

We know that, but how many of the millions of people watching the Great British Bake Off do? How many of the 9.2m viewers (at the show’s peak) will have clocked that there have been 8 engineers that have entered the baking tent? 3 of whom have done exceptionally well.

When launching our This is Engineering campaign – tasked with the urgent need to rebrand engineering for young people – we determined on showing teenagers that there’s engineering behind what they’re already interested in, and that it’s for people like them. The campaign communicates that engineers have a hand in creating the things they love, demonstrating that if they follow their own passions, it could lead them towards a fulfilling career in engineering.

That insight shaped the films we’ve promoted of bioplastic engineer, Lucy Hughes keeping plastic out of the ocean, to performance engineer George Imafidon making F1 greener, from walk wizard Alan Proud engineering splints to help people walk pain-free to Alfred the app helping its co-founder Luke Parry overcome a significant brain injury. And it’s why we are here on National Engineering Day talking about cakes and challenging our profession to engineer a showstopper.

Why does this even matter?

In short, the UK urgently needs more engineers. By 2025, according to techUK, 3,000,000 new UK technology jobs will have been created. By 2030, according to EngineeringUK research, it’s also estimated there will be 90,000 new jobs involved in wind power; by 2035, 70,000 new heat pump installer jobs; by 2040, 78,000 new jobs involved in electric vehicles; by 2050, 260,000 new and 140,000 replacement jobs involved in grid infrastructure.

However, research tells us that young people’s misperceptions of the profession are preventing them from embracing a career that improves the lives of others – a key work motivation of theirs. Engineering is seen as narrow, mechanical, too technical and dull, and this perception is often reinforced by the sort of images you find of ‘engineers’ online and in the media. And young people can’t be what they can’t see. EngineeringUK’s research shows that almost half (47%) of UK pupils aged between seven and 19 haven’t even considered engineering as a potential career; less than a quarter (23.5%) had even heard about engineering from careers advisors. 

National Engineering Day was created to celebrate and make visible the engineers and engineering improving our lives and shaping our future. It is a date in the calendar around which the Royal Academy of Engineering rallies the engineering profession – and those who rely on the ingenuity of engineers – to show the wider public, the career gatekeepers and influencers, a different image of who engineers really are and what they do. After all, young people don’t make their career decisions in a vacuum.

When conducting research into what makes a particular career appealing to young people, the results revealed that ‘helping people’ is a key motivation and has higher appeal even than ‘saving the planet’. This is why National Engineering Day 2022 showcases the engineering that’s making the day-to-day better, and the engineers improving the lives of others. 

Engineers like Andrew Smyth (GBBO finalist in 2016), Giuseppe Dell’Anno (GBBO winner in 2021) and Rahul Mandal (GBBO winner in 2018).

All 3 are well-known as baking supremos whose culinary creations have amassed social media followers in their hundreds of thousands. Yet, in their day jobs as engineers, they have been improving lives through engineering. Giuseppe has helped the food industry reduce plastic waste and use alternative packaging options. He worked in research and development for packaging company Sealed Air, researching ways to make packaging sustainable, before entering the Bake Off tent. Andrew is an aerospace engineer working on the future of flight for Rolls-Royce, making air travel more efficient, greener, and quieter. Rahul is a research scientist at the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, helping the country shift towards sustainable energy production.

How many of their followers or baking fans knew that until today?

To help us get a baking-obsessed nation engaged in engineering, we challenged the 3 baking engineers to collaborate for the first time on creating a celebratory bake for National Engineering Day. You can watch how they got on here. Spoiler alert, the end result is called ‘Time to Celebrate Engineering’. It is a ‘timely’ reminder that our world needs more Andrews, Rahuls, and Giuseppes to engineer a better tomorrow. As Rahul says, “If you’re good at baking you’ll be good at engineering.” So, if you know someone who can engineer a tasty treat and is looking for a career that makes lives (and cakes) better, point them in the direction of thisisengineering.org.uk and @thisisengineering on Instagram and TikTok, not just today but in the future too.

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