Engineers are currently tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems – from dealing with cyber security and maintaining clean water and energy supplies to finding sustainable ways to grow food, build houses and travel. Engineers present solutions both to immediate and long-term problems. As we struggle to deal with an ageing population, from developing life-saving medical equipment and minimising the damage from earthquakes to helping chart‑topping musicians record songs to developing computer games and making better, greener transport, engineering is part of everyday life.
The good news is that the UK is great at engineering. But (and it’s a big but), the sector has a severe shortage of skilled professionals as older engineers retire and the industry grows. You may be surprised to learn that engineering employs over 5.4 million people in the UK and the projected number of job openings for the decade to 2022 is over 2.5 million. However, the numbers coming through the ranks are not sufficient to reach this projected demand and the proportion of women in the industry is the lowest in Europe.
Tomorrow’s Engineers That’s why Tomorrow’s Engineers, a wide‑ranging schools programme wants to give every young person aged 11 to 14 the opportunity to participate in an engineering-related activity with an employer. If they can see the number and diverse range of careers available in engineering, the hope is they will continue with STEM subjects thus keeping their options open for the future.
For a career in engineering you need qualifications in maths and a science, often physics. However, as many consider these to be really tough subjects, an important message for young people is that, with roles at all levels of engineering, you don’t have to be a maths or science genius to work in the industry. The programme works with leading employers and brings together the engineering community in a collective E drive to build the future generation of engineers needed by the industry.
Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is an annual campaign supported by government, educators and employers across the UK that shines a spotlight on engineering careers in a way that young people may have never considered before; such as: Who creates moisturiser? How do engineers save lives? Where do they make space probes in the UK? How do you build an app?
It gives young people across the UK the chance to take part in activities, talk directly to employers and young engineers and to learn about all the varied possibilities available. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2015 will take place 2-6 November and there are lots of opportunities for teachers and group leaders to get involved.
For example, you could ask a local engineering company to send you an engineer to tell the young people you work with about the amazing things they do every day. They could bring in their kit and show them their tools of the trade, or invite a group to visit them at work. Ask them to show exactly what it means to be an engineer.
You could work with a local engineer to run a hands-on activity, an interactive discussion or a live online Q&A; it can be anything as long as it inspires and puts the spotlight on engineering.
Inspiring youngsters Research shows us that after last year’s Week, 49 per cent of young people aged 11-14 stated that they believed a career in engineering to be desirable. This is substantially more than the 41 per cent of the national benchmark and slightly more than the response given by participants in the Tomorrow’s Engineers programme (47 per cent), which takes place throughout the year.
When surveyed after Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2014, the impact on perception was particularly striking for girls, as 44 per cent of girls aged 11 to 14 agreed that engineering careers are desirable, 18 per cent more than the benchmark. When asked as part of the post-event survey a third (33 per cent) of girls in this age group said they knew what engineers do. Compare this to 16 per cent of girls in the UK benchmark and you start to see the difference these interventions can make. Of course, this is by no means to suggest that the 25 per cent of young people who said they had heard about or taken part in a Tomorrow’s Engineers Week activity in November will go on to become engineers. The week is just one way to inspire the youngsters in our classrooms and to create the next generation of engineers. Making available accurate, industry-relevant careers resources to support teachers and advisers is another.
Encouraging interest So, what should teachers be saying when asked about engineering careers? The key things to tell anyone asking about a possible career in engineering are: Study maths and physics to keep your options open; Engineers design, create and innovate to improve lives; There are loads of different types of engineering roles; Engineers can work anywhere in the world; Engineers are generally well paid; and you can get into engineering via a degree or an apprenticeship.
The Tomorrow’s Engineers resource pack includes answers to questions young people often ask about engineering and explores some topics, such as gender balance, in more detail. In the packs, which can be downloaded or ordered for free from the Tomorrows Engineers website, are posters with reasons to become an engineer, routes into engineering and inspiring case studies.
Leaflets for learners and their parents/carers describe the opportunities presented by the engineering sector and look at entry routes, work experience and funding opportunities. The newest resources include an Engineers save lives poster and associated lesson plan as well as 10 reasons to become a scientist or an engineer.
EEP Robotics Challenge Schools across the country are invited to take on a robotics challenge that will see student teams involved in ‘space missions’. Teamwork, robots, design, discovery, fun and loads of LEGO are all part of the mix, as are real-world challenges, teacher support and some great prizes. The programme aims to support the STEM curriculum, along with computing, and design and technology. You can run activities and lessons with your team during school time or as an extra-curricular activity.
This isn’t a one‑off challenge. It’s a curriculum‑linked programme that gets your students (11-14s) working together in teams (minimum size of six students per team) to solve real-world engineering, technology and computing challenges.
Your student team will learn how to build, program and control autonomous LEGO robots to complete a series of short, exciting space missions using LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 sets. From assembling the crew to launching the satellite, they’ll demonstrate the skills they’ve learned at challenge events held around the country.
The journey starts in your school though. The challenge events are the culmination of a ten-week extra-curricular or in-school programme that will see your students learning how to design and control their robots to complete the space challenges. It’s all with the help of our structured activity plans and learning software, and we’ll also provide you with training and equipment.
You can run activities with your team outside the classroom or during lessons. The challenge could take your team all the way from regional heats to the national final. There is no participation fee and all the training and kit are provided free of charge. The application form should show how engineering impacts on your school. How important is engineering at school and further afield? How might that inspire the children? Where might engineering take them? Show why we should choose your school above another. What makes your school special? What will your school gain from taking part?
Perhaps your school is very focused on STEM subjects, and taking part will help build on this, or perhaps there’s a lack of STEM focus and the Tomorrow’s Engineers EEP Robotics Challenge could help to improve this. If you already work with a STEM Ambassador or a local engineer/engineering company, don’t forget to highlight that in the application. Applicants need to apply by 5pm Thursday 5 November 2015.
The Big Bang Fair Another programme aimed at bringing science and engineering to life for young people is The Big Bang. The annual Big Bang Fair is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK. Everything is aimed at showing young people (primarily aged 7-19) the exciting and rewarding opportunities out there for them with the right experience and qualifications, by bringing classroom learning to life.
Held at the NEC in Birmingham 16-19 March 2016, The Big Bang Fair is an award-winning combination of exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits, as well careers information from STEM professionals. In 2015 almost 70,000 people made the trip to see the world of science, technology, engineering and maths brought to life in some unexpected ways.
The 2016 Fair will have over 200 exhibitors, daily workshops and a range of exciting shows, such as ‘Gastronaut and the Quantum Mechanical Chocolate Factory’ and ‘The Hollywood Special Effects Show’. The message to young people is very much ‘come and see where studying STEM can lead you and prepare to be amazed, surprised, inspired and possibly even disgusted’.
Careers and Futures At its heart, The Big Bang is about careers and futures and highlighting the exciting possibilities that exist for young people in science, technology, engineering and maths. It’s about the contribution they, with the right motivation, can make to the UK economy and to society in general. From meeting inspiring young engineers and scientists from some of the biggest companies in the UK and through receiving dedicated careers advice, young people leave the event with a fresh, new perspective on where their school subjects can lead them and a more positive view of careers in STEM.
Teachers also find the experience a positive one. Not just in terms of what their students learn and experiment with but also with regards the information and resources they gather during the day. In 2015, 81 per cent of teachers took away educational resources that most of them plan to use in their own teaching.
Celebrating innovation The Big Bang Fair national finals look for the very best projects from every area of science, technology, engineering and maths and aims to celebrate and raise the profile of young people’s achievements. The best entries get to showcase their project at The Fair, where finalists have their own stands to show off all their hard work to scientists, engineers, students, parents, employers, teachers and celebrities. As well as lots of team and individual prizes, entrants in the senior category have the chance to be crowned the UK Young Scientist of the Year or the UK Young Engineer of the Year, which can be a massive motivation for many students.
For anyone who can’t make it to Birmingham in March there are other opportunities to experience the Big Bang. The UK Fair is complemented by a series of Near Me Fairs, smaller events that take place across the country and are an important part of the programme, helping 11-18 year olds from all backgrounds to discover close to home the exciting and rewarding science and engineering careers that their science and maths subjects can lead to. Because Near Me fairs can be regional, local or school-based there are lots of opportunities to get involved. The majority of the regional fairs take place in the summer term (though in Wales they often happen earlier in the year). They are free to attend but you do need to register. Improving motiviation The Big Bang @ School programme helps teachers organise Big Bang Fairs in their own schools. These are designed to enhance and enrich the STEM curriculum, improve student motivation and attainment and raise the profile of the schools. The @ School Fairs can be as big or small as you like and teachers can get help and pointers along the way.
Online entry for the national finals closes on 31 October 2015, so there’s still a little bit of time to apply with science or engineering projects at www.nsecuk.org.