A cross-sectional survey of UK adults has revealed that the impact of engineering on the economy is undervalued and that misconceptions about the industry persist.

Perhaps as a consequence of this, very few people surveyed — especially young people and women — said they would consider engineering as a career.

The survey, commissioned by Bosch, was carried out in September last year among 1,347 UK adults aged between 18 and 45 years.

Only 45 per cent of those questioned — and 23 per cent of young people — believed engineering was a key industry for the UK economy, with a higher proportion of people rating retail, banking and tourism as key to the economy.

Furthermore, a large proportion of participants (92 per cent) thought that engineers mostly have technical roles in business, with less than two per cent of people thinking they are involved in running businesses.

‘In general, engineering is still seen by many people as a “behind-the-scenes” function of business, when in fact engineers have been responsible for so much innovation and business growth,’ Peter Fouquet, president of Bosch UK, told The Engineer.

One telling aspect of the survey was that participants valued end-consumer products, but not the engineering behind them — 63 per cent thought that the car has helped shape the world, while 38 per cent believed the same of the sparkplug.

‘Our awareness and acknowledgement of engineering all around us is not as strong as it should be,’ Fouquet said.

Perhaps the most concerning finding was that only 11 per cent of all participants and five per cent of 18–24 year olds considered engineering as a career, with just three per cent of female students considering the option.

‘The traditional view of engineering, as more of a manual-labour profession, discourages some people from thinking about a career in it, but the modern reality of engineering is very different,’ Fouquet said.

‘A greater focus on this reality may help attract more females to the profession, but we also need more exposure of female role models in engineering because, in order to consider a career, people need to be able to imagine themselves in a particular job.’

Engineering students were more likely to know what career they wanted compared with other students (35 per cent compared with 27 per cent of students in general), but believed there were less opportunities for them (46 per cent cited a lack of opportunity in their chosen career, compared with 31 per cent of students in general).

Nevertheless, Fouquet was confident about the future of the industry: ‘A significant proportion of the country’s economic growth in the coming years will be from sectors such as low-carbon technology, which involves a high level of advanced engineering.’