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The future of engineering is more important than ever. According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology, the UK’s science, technology and engineering (STEM) sectors are facing a shortage of 173,000 workers. 49% of engineering companies are having difficulty recruiting skilled workers. As the technological world evolves and advances, the government is determined to prioritize STEM education in primary and secondary schools.
How does the UK encourage young people to pursue engineering careers? From encouraging interest at a young ages to creating an inclusive space in STEM for underrepresented groups and equipping students, with transferable skills that they can use for their entire lives,
Encouragement of STEM education at a young age
Many organizations encourage STEM learning in primary education. STEM learning is a continuing professional development (CPD), programme that supports primary school teachers in their efforts to inspire the next generation engineers. It offers online courses, bursaries, as well as regional and remote courses.
The Institute of Engineering and Technology offers free materials for children between 5 and 11 years old, including lesson plans and education videos. This provides teachers with the tools they need to inspire the next generation.
Children can also learn STEM skills outside of school. Parents can encourage their children to ask questions about the world around them. This can even be done with toys that children have. Educational toys such as coding robots enrich children’s lives and give them the tools to excel at STEM subjects.
Encourage STEM subjects in schools that are underrepresented
We must continue to offer educational tools for underrepresented groups in order to inspire engineers of the future. In 2021, only 14.5% of engineers were women. The number of girls who choose STEM subjects in school is significantly lower that that of boys. This is evident in A-Level technology subjects such as computer science.
The number of A-Level computer science students rose from 12,428 in the UK to 13,829 in 2021. Of these, 11,798 were male and 2,031 were female. The gender gap in STEM subjects can partly be explained by harmful stereotypes. Women In Tech claims that girls can be discouraged from STEM subjects by early socialization and classroom culture, which are traditionally male-dominated.
Computer science and technology subjects can be a great way for engineers to inspire their next generation. These subjects can provide a foundation for engineers. This can help you develop multiple skills, such as the ability to create software for engineering, such as building design software.
Students from low socio-economic backgrounds are also less likely to choose STEM subjects at school. In2ScienceUK research shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are 2.2 times more likely to choose triple science at GCSE than other students. This could be due in part to student interests or counter-culture among disadvantaged youth.
The UK government is investing money as well as resources in initiatives to address this problem. These schemes encourage underrepresented groups in STEM education and inspire engineers of the future. It aims to increase the accessibility of computer science for female students at GCSE/A-Level. This is in line with other incentives such as the Gender Balance in Computing Programme.
Engineering is becoming an inclusive field. This is a good thing. These underrepresented groups have seen an increase in the number of STEM-related degrees.