New briefings on perceptions and knowledge of engineering

Dec 8, 2022

EngineeringUK has published a series of new research briefings exploring the perceptions, understanding, and knowledge of STEM and engineering among young people, their parents and secondary school teachers.

The briefings, based predominantly on data gathered in the 2021 Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM) survey, also take a deep dive look at the impact of demographic factors on these perceptions - including gender and socio-economic background.

Harnessing the talent pool

The first briefing – titled ‘Harnessing the talent pool - is part of our educational pathways series and contains a suite of data looking at knowledge, interest, and perception of engineering careers among school students (aged 7 to 19), their parents and STEM secondary teachers.

Interestingly, young people between the ages of 11 to 14 years were the group that had the greatest interest in engineering (55%), however they were also the group that indicated they had the least knowledge (53%).

Gender disparity in early perceptions

When considering young people’s perceptions of engineering, our research highlights that gender plays a key role. ‘Gender disparity in early perceptions of engineering’ finds that girls report less knowledge about engineering, less engagement with science and engineering activities, and are less likely to see themselves as engineers.

In fact, fewer than half of girls said that they think engineering would be a suitable career for them (42%), or that they feel being an engineer fits who they are (35%), compared to 61% and 53% of boys. Girls were also less likely than boys to say that if they wanted to, they could become an engineer.

Impact of socioeconomic background on early perceptions

Similarly, social background plays an important role in shaping knowledge and aspirations around engineering careers. The third briefing - titled ‘Impact of socio-economic background on early perceptions of engineering- highlights that fewer than half (43%) of young people from less advantaged backgrounds said they think engineering would be a suitable career for them and just 37% said being an engineer fits well with who they are, compared with 66% and 59% of young people from more advantaged backgrounds respectively.

Claudia Mollidor, Head of Research and Evaluation, at EngineeringUK comments: “Understanding the perception and knowledge of engineering careers and pathways is an important first step in interpreting what might need to change to ensure the engineering sector is tackling the skills shortage and recruiting from the full breadth of the talent pool.

“These briefings highlight key gaps in knowledge and desirability of engineering careers among certain underrepresented groups. This provides us, and the sector, with a clear direction for where to focus our outreach efforts, if we are to successfully achieve a more diverse workforce.

“We hope these briefings will encourage the STEM community and those engaging with school students in careers advice to carefully consider their roles in supporting all young people to develop an interest in becoming an engineer and fostering a positive perception of the profession.”

Find out more about these briefings and EngineeringUK’s research into attitudes and perceptions towards engineering.

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