Comment: Acting now will help us attract new talent to engineering

Is your organisation ready to collaborate to attract more diverse young people into engineering? If 2020 was about realising that the status quo needed to change, then surely this year needs to be one of action writes Dr Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK


The arguments for why the engineering community needs to diversify its intake and appeal to more young people, regardless of backgrounds is central to EngineeringUK’s mission. Engineering is a varied, stimulating and important career but we need to work harder than ever to ensure that it’s a career choice that’s accessible for the next generation of young people – not just for their own life chances but so we have a diverse and insightful workforce that enables the UK to thrive.

We want to work with others to drive a new era of engagement so our collective impact can change at scale

Many organisations are already doing important work but there is evidence and widespread agreement that we must work better together to improve the quality, inclusivity, targeting and reach of activities designed to inspire young people into engineering.

We want to work with others to drive a new era of engagement so our collective impact can change at scale, and I want to share some ideas on how to do so. First, our research team has been working with others over the last year or so to create an Impact Framework which aims to depict the myriad of factors that influence student aspirations and choices and help organisations working in this area to articulate their intended impacts. Please do take a look at this on our Tomorrow’s Engineers website – which brings together free advice and guidance, curated from across the engineering community to improve our collective impact.

If this sounds of interest, then you may think about becoming a Tomorrow’s Engineers Code Signatory. Signatories make the following pledges:

  • Ensure programmes contribute to a sustained and rich STEM journey for all young people
  • Ensure all young people have opportunities to engage in engineering-inspiration activities, so that no one is left behind
  • Promote a positive, compelling and authentic view of engineering, and showcase the breadth of opportunities
  • Improve the monitoring and evaluation of programmes and activities to develop a shared understanding of what works.

Organisations who would like more support from us, and who support us in turn, join EngineeringUK’s network of Corporate Members. Rolls-Royce has been a member for over 10 years and is always looking to learn from other like-minded organisations to increase diversity, inclusion and to provide more STEM outreach opportunities. Their work includes: a long-standing pledge to provide role models from diverse backgrounds in STEM to champion career opportunities and the importance of STEM subjects; to offer apprenticeships after GCSEs and A levels; to sponsor undergraduate degrees as part of degree apprenticeship programmes and invest in education and outreach programmes.

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Similarly, Siemens realised that it was far more beneficial for them to collaborate with others on STEM and education outreach to provide quality and sustainable programmes for young people. At the heart of their strategy is to build enthusiasm and engagement with young people to encourage them to have a career in engineering. They inspire future talent by hosting lots of different resources so young people understand the wide range of engineering careers that are available to them. Their collaborations with us, schools and others over the years have included face-face to programmes, virtual work experience opportunities and providing volunteers for various activities and careers events.

We’re keen to create more discussion over the next few months and will be launching the Big Engineering Conversation, which aims to get us all talking, sharing ideas and thinking about how we can work together. We’ll offer some of our thoughts in vlog and blog form and offer Talking Points as as starting material and invite the community to do the same, engaging online and on social with the hashtag, #BigEngConversation. Please do get involved!

Finally, I want to be clear that we are on this journey with you. We don’t have all the answers and are always striving to improve. We’re sharing our approaches and ideas with you and you’ll see them change over time as we learn more from your feedback and our evaluations. And we are, of course, constantly adapting to the ever-changing external environment.

You can see our latest iteration with the new look and feel of The Big Bang Programme with a new website that brings all the different elements of the programme together for the first time. The Big Bang Competition is now open for entries – so if you know a climate change hero or a young inventor, please let them know that the UK’s top science and engineering competition could transform their future and give them a chance to shine. The winners will be announced as part of Big Bang Digital, which we are running for the second time– please share the date with schools, 23-25 June, so they can join online. It will inspire school-aged children around the themes of building a brighter and greener future and solving human challenges with STEM. The sessions will be a mix of live-stream and recorded content which will be available on demand after the event and will celebrate the amazing work of scientists and engineers.