Annual survey sheds light on attitude to STEM in schools

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The Engineering Brand Monitor, an annual survey carried out by EngineeringUK, has revealed that the proportion of 16 to 19-year-olds who would consider a career in engineering increasing significantly since 2016 (45% compared with 37%).

Additionally, the majority of teachers and parents held positive views of engineering. 80% of STEM secondary teachers and 68% of parents believed a career in engineering would be desirable for their pupils or children.

The survey of more than 2,500 young people, 1,000 STEM secondary school teachers and 1,800 members of the public also suggests that STEM outreach can work: young people attending a STEM careers activity in the previous 12 months were over three times as likely to consider a career in engineering than those who had not. 

However, work is still needed to improve young people’s knowledge, perceptions and understanding of engineering, particularly among girls. There are clear gender differences across the board, with girls being less likely than boys to know about engineering, to view it positively, to consider a career in the industry or know what to do next in order to become an engineer. They are also less likely to believe they could become an engineer if they wanted to.

The survey also reveals issues with how engineering is perceived. For example, engineering lagged behind other STEM subjects with respect to young people’s knowledge of what those working in the industry do and the extent to which they perceive engineering positively and believe it to be a desirable career. 

Dr Hilary Leevers, chief executive of EngineeringUK, said, “The Engineering Brand Monitor provides a unique insight into how STEM is viewed by young people, educators and other influencers. 

“The latest results reveal that young people place high importance on ‘having an impact’ and ‘being valued’ when deciding upon a career — STEM outreach should emphasise the great and wide-ranging contributions that engineers make to society.

“As salary also ranks as an important factor for young people when choosing a career, compelling and accurate salary and labour market statistics should be a key part of careers advice and guidance.

"Young people who participate in STEM engagement activities know more about engineering and those that know more about engineering are more likely to consider a career in it. Given the urgent need we have to encourage more, and more diverse, young people in engineering, we must work together to make sure that every young person has repeated opportunities to be inspired by STEM and engineering.”

The full report is available at www.engineeringuk.com/ebm