Negative perceptions exacerbate engineering skills shortages

The engineering sector may need to ‘rebrand’ following research that found Gen Z and millennials have negative perceptions of the profession.


Polling by strategy specialists Stonehaven shows that engineering came first when people were asked to rank the professions they most admired. It was ranged against similarly skilled professions such as designers, software developers and architects.

While 80 per cent expressed high admiration for the industry, 66 per cent said they had never thought of a career in the sector.

Across the age groups, Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) were the most reluctant to consider a career in engineering, with 30 per cent saying they would not choose it.  Around a third (34 per cent) thought the sector was too male-dominated, while 32 per cent were put off by the idea of engineering being a maths and science-related job.

Among Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), 19 per cent said they would not consider a career in engineering and 28 per cent still thought of the sector as too male-dominated. Over a quarter (28 per cent) said they were not aware of job opportunities in the sector.

Stonehaven’s research also found that alongside a good salary, younger generations are more motivated by the idea of ‘shaping their town, than saving the world’ when choosing a job.


Among Gen Z and Millennials, 40 per cent are searching for a new job with the opportunity to improve their local area, suggesting that potential young recruits could be encouraged into engineering if they realised the profession’s potential to transform communities.

In a statement, James Ruane, Stonehaven’s managing partner of communications and campaigns, said: “A quarter of those we polled said engineering had a ‘branding problem’. While the numbers of women in the engineering workforce has almost doubled in a decade, it is still viewed by too many in the younger generation as being a male-dominated sector.”

Ruane continued: "Our findings underscore the urgency of raising awareness among the younger generation not only of the opportunities across the sector but also the diversity of its workforce.

“Engineering boosts local community prosperity and is a hidden benefit that job seekers haven’t associated it with before. Recruitment that focuses on engineering as a profession as a force for and the power to transform communities for the better, would help close the admiration and relatability gap of the sector.”

Stonehaven conducted a comprehensive research project amalgamating insights from a n=2,000 nationally representative study in the UK and secondary data sources. The study explored attitudes toward employment and the implications for current and future job markets. On current trends, the engineering sector is heading for a shortfall of one million engineers by 2030.