Pandemic response boosts desirability of STEM careers

The Covid-19 pandemic has refocussed young minds and has prompted many to consider a future career in a STEM-related field.

STEM careers
Ventilator production at Ford’s Dagenham plant (Image: Ford Motor Company)

According to research carried out by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the efforts of NHS workers and engineers to counter Covid-19 have prompted 63 per cent of 10-18 year olds to consider a career in medicine and 52 per cent of children to consider a career in engineering after witnessing the agility of engineers in delivering ventilators and temporary critical care hospitals.

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According to IET’s research, 82 per cent of the young people surveyed believe science should play a greater role in government decisions, and 13-year-olds in particular (49 per cent) strongly agreeing this is necessary.

In a statement, Ying Wan Loh, IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year, said: “The results from this new research are really positive. Despite the extremely challenging time the UK has faced over the last few months, it’s really encouraging to know that young people have been inspired by those working in STEM during the pandemic and are now considering careers in these fields.”

STEM has now evolved to become a desirable career to consider, with young people putting doctor (34 per cent), inventor (30 per cent) and engineer (23 per cent) as the ‘coolest’ careers. Children who said they were inspired by NHS workers or engineers during the Covid-19 crisis explained their main motivations behind this prospective career choice would be to save lives (59 per cent), improve people’s health (47 per cent), do something that benefits society (42 per cent) and work in a field others respect and value (40 per cent).

“The Covid-19 outbreak has showcased our fantastic medical professionals, scientists and engineers who have been working so hard to find solutions,” said Ying Wan Loh. “It’s put them front and centre during the crisis and raised awareness of how important STEM is to our daily lives. I know first-hand that working in STEM offers fantastic experiences, with opportunities to make a real difference.”

Despite the uptick in STEM popularity, less than half (42 per cent) of girls said Covid-19 has inspired them to consider careers in engineering, compared to 60 per cent of boys.

The research for the IET was carried out online by Opinion Matters throughout 10/06/2020 to 18/06/2020 amongst a panel resulting in 1,003 people aged 10-18 responding.