Attitudes & knowledge
In December 2022, EngineeringUK 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
This briefing, published in December 2022, is part of our educational pathways series and is accompanied by a suite of data tables looking at knowledge, interest, and perception of engineering careers among young people, their parents and STEM secondary teachers.
The summary initially focuses on the knowledge and perceptions young people have of engineering, self-efficacy and interest in engineering careers, and knowledge of routes into engineering. These can help us to understand any barriers that young people might face in pursuing a career in engineering.
It continues by focusing on parental perceptions, knowledge, and the likelihood of recommending engineering to their young person. Parents play an important role in the career and educational pathways young people pursue, so it is important to understand their views too.
Finally, the report looks at STEM secondary teachers and their knowledge and confidence at offering engineering careers advice. STEM teachers are an important career resource and play a substantial contribution to young people’s enjoyment and continued engagement in STEM.
- Young people between the ages of 11 to 14 years had the greatest interest in engineering (55.3%), they were also the group that indicated they had the least knowledge (52.6%), compared with older young people.
- Females, compared with males, indicated they were less knowledgeable (48.4% vs 61.3%) and less interested (38.5% vs 62.5%) in engineering among all age groups.
- 65% of males between the ages of 14 to 16 indicated they know what engineers do and are interested in a career in engineering. They are also the largest group to indicate they know the educational pathways into engineering (51.5%).
- Females indicated they were less knowledgeable about educational pathways into engineering than boys across all age groups. Their reported knowledge was at least 10 percentage points lower across age groups than that of males.
- Parents are the largest single source of careers advice for young people (52.8%).
- Parents generally perceive engineering as a well-respected profession (83.2%), although only a little more than half (56.1%) report to have knowledge of what engineers do.
- The social grade of parents has a large influence on their perception, knowledge, and likelihood of recommending engineering to their child/children.
- STEM teachers generally know what engineers do (81%) and are confident giving careers advice about engineering (72%).
Read the 'Harnessing the talent pool' briefing
Gender disparity in early perceptions of engineering
This briefing, published in December 2022, contributes towards improving our understanding of the gender imbalance in the engineering workforce by exploring the perceptions of engineering in young people, and how they differ between boys and girls aged 11 to 19 using data from the Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM). We also explored the influence of parents on their children.
This report reinforces the need to tackle barriers into engineering for women from an early age. Encouragingly, the factors that are important to girls when considering a career are the same as for boys. This shows the opportunity for encouraging more girls to consider a career in engineering, through positive case studies and highlighting careers and opportunities in the workforce.
- Girls report less knowledge about engineering, less engagement with science and engineering activities, and are less likely to see themselves as engineers.
- Parents of girls report less engagement with STEM activities with their child compared with parents of boys.
- Girls were more likely to agree that they face more barriers, making it harder for them to get ahead in engineering than boys.
- Boys were much more likely to agree that boys would make better engineers than girls.
- A significantly higher proportion of boys said they knew about the different types of things engineers can do than girls (61% compared to 48%).
- Girls were less likely than boys to think engineers needing to be innovative is important (40% boys vs 35% girls).
- Less 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 to say that if they wanted to, they could become an engineer.
- Girls were less likely to say they thought they were good at sciences and maths subjects at school, despite the fact that girls’ performance in these subjects at school is at least as good as boys’.
- Young people who had engaged in STEM activities outside of school with their parents were more likely to have knowledge of what an engineer can do in their job, and to see engineering as a ‘good fit’ for them.
- Higher proportions of parents of boys would suggest engineering as a career to their child (72%) than parents of girls (57%).
- Parents of boys were more than twice as likely to agree with the statement ‘A child like mine would be well-suited to a career in engineering’.
Read the 'Gender disparity in early perceptions of engineering' briefing
Impact of socio-economic background on early perceptions of engineering
This briefing, published in December 2022, focuses on the impact of young people’s socio-economic background on their knowledge and perception of engineering, and their understanding of pathways into the engineering sector. Using our Engineering Brand Monitoring (EBM) 2021 survey, this briefing looks at the responses of young people from less advanced backgrounds and their more advantaged peers, and whether there is any difference based on their background.
This briefing also uses the responses of parents to understand their knowledge of engineering and how able they are to promote a career in engineering based on the socio-economic makeup of their household.
- 58% of young people from low education and income1 backgrounds indicated that one or both parents think science is very interesting, compared with 80% of young people from high education and income2
- 39% of young people from low education and income background stated that their teacher has specifically encouraged them to continue with science education, compared with 61% of young people from high education and income backgrounds.
- 43% of young people from low education and income backgrounds indicated they thought engineering would be a suitable career for them, compared with 66% of young people from high education and income backgrounds.
- 48% of young people from low education and income backgrounds indicated they know what engineers do in their jobs, compared with 69% of young people from high education and income backgrounds
- 27% of young people from low education and income backgrounds indicated they know which subjects or qualification they would need to take to become an engineer, compared with 62% of young people from high education and income backgrounds.
- 28% of parents from low education and income households indicated they were confident giving their child advice about careers in engineering, compared with 57% of parents from high education and income households.
Read the 'Impact of socio-economic background on early perceptions of engineering' briefing
EngineeringUK has run the Engineering Brand Monitor (EBM) survey since 2010, asking young people aged 7 to 19, parents and STEM secondary school teachers about their perceptions, understanding, and knowledge of STEM and engineering.
Through the EBM we get an understanding of how much they know about engineering careers and how to get into them as well as how positively or otherwise the view careers in the industry. We are able to identify demographic differences and the latest analysis looks at the results through the lens of the COM-B theory of change model, looking at capability, opportunity and motivation.
Our analysis looks at the attitudes and knowledge of:
Previous Engineering Brand Monitor reports remain available in our research archive.