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Engineering one of the most poorly understood STEM careers, Royal Academy says

New research conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering has revealed widespread misconceptions about engineers and a lack of understanding of the profession amongst young people.

The research, carried out by EngineeringUK and based on data collected from a sample of 2,516 pupils aged 7-19, 1,023 educators and 1,810 members of the public, revealed that 76 per cent of young people aged 11–19 do not know what people working in engineering do.

Parents also apparently need help in developing a greater understanding of engineering, with 72 per cent of those surveyed admitting they did not know a lot about the work carried out in the engineering profession.

The situation is compounded by the fact that 63 per cent of 11–16-year olds said they would go to their parents for careers advice. The research also showed that 42 per cent of young people aged 11–19 said that "making a difference" or "having an impact" would be an important factor to them when deciding upon a career. However, almost half of them had never thought about becoming an engineer.

As part of its efforts to improve the perception of engineering and turn it into one of most in-demand careers, the Royal Academy of Engineering is launching 'This is Engineering Day' on 6 November as part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. 'This is Engineering Day' will be a new national awareness day to increase understanding of what an engineer is and to celebrate the roles that will contribute to shaping our futures.

Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Engineering and technology play an incredible role in shaping the world around us and in addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, from providing a sustainable supply of food, water and clean energy, to advancing healthcare, and keeping us safe and secure.

"We know that young people increasingly want to tackle these issues and make a difference in the world, but unfortunately the lack of understanding around engineering is stopping them from exploring careers that will enable them to do this.

“This matters because we face an estimated shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers each year in the UK, and there is a pressing need to diversify our engineering workforce, since only 12 per cent of professional engineers are female and less than 9 per cent are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

"That’s why we’re making 6 November 'This is Engineering Day', to raise awareness of what an engineer is and celebrate those that are shaping the world we live in.”

According to the World Economic Forum, there are many engineering roles that will be crucial in positively shaping our future society and protecting our environment. However, the prevailing view amongst young people is that the majority of 11–19-year olds "probably or definitely" do not want to become an engineer (52 per cent).

Important jobs for the future identified by the World Economic Forum include new technology specialists, such as making solar and wind energy more flexible and reliable; information security analysts, who will make cyber space safer; software and applications developers and analysts, who will, for example, enhance virtual reality (VR) for use in healthcare; and innovation professionals, who will, for example, improve water quality and efficiency worldwide.

More information about 'This is Engineering Day' and the wider 'This is Engineering' campaign is available online at www.ThisisEngineering.org.uk and @ThisisEng on Twitter.

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