Community action

The Paul Jackson Column

The Big Bang Fair saw over 65,000 people exposed to the real world of science and engineering, but the engineering community needs to keep its efforts up to put the sector at the forefront of society.

This March we held our biggest Big Bang Fair to date. Over 4 days I was pleased to witness swathes of young people, teachers and parents fill London ExCeL – 65,382 to be exact. This collaborative approach to bringing science and engineering to life is making a big impact. Our evaluation shows that visitors enjoyed The Fair, but, more importantly, 9 out of ten of our 11-19 year-old visitors said they learnt a lot, over half spoke to exhibitors about careers and nearly three quarters said they now know how to access further information on careers in science and engineering as a result of their visit. What’s more, 80% of the teachers taking part said they would use material from The Fair in their classes, increasing the reach to pupils who didn’t attend.

Big Bang
An engineering novice finds out about the world of manufacturing and technology from Big Bang Fair attendees

Taken as a whole, the Big Bang programme is now reaching upwards of 80,000 young people directly and many more via our media and social media activity. It’s a great example of the change that can be achieved when the wider science and engineering community works together. Its success demonstrates an improvement in public attitude and interest in science and engineering; an improvement which I hope will prove testament to a game-changing era for science and engineering.

The Big Bang fair is a great example of the change that can be achieved when the wider science and engineering community works together

With National Science and Engineering Week kicking of ten days of wide-scale events, 900 nationwide events dedicated to National Apprenticeship Week, the Global Grand Challenges Summit drawing support from Bill Gates to, and the recent announcement of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, I wonder, has engineering ever had a more high-profile year? Such initiatives have the potential to create a lasting legacy for engineering – increasing acknowledgement, awareness, visibility and talkability of engineering in everyday life. The challenge is to turn these into long-term beacons for engineering rather than short-term flares.

As Jon Excell pointed out in his recent column ‘join the innovation debate’, if this momentum is to be translated into meaningful change, it’s up to us, the engineers, to take the debate out into our day-to-day lives, ‘…at the family meal, the football match and the playground’. Fundamentally, it’s up to us to do this stuff more effectively together. It is our responsibility as a community to join up the dots between these valuable programmes. Only by working together can we have a long-lasting impact on the national conscious, making engineering a permanent conversational topic. 

By collaborating as a community we can make great campaigns work harder to leave an impression where it really matters: on the imaginations, hearts and minds of our next generation of engineers.

Paul Jackson, is the chief executive of EngineeringUK