Comment: Get involved and inspire all young engineers

EngineeringUK CEO Dr Hilary Leevers imagines an engineering community that works together to achieve greater impact and asks for your help.

Some early analysis from EngineeringUK of the Labour Force Survey Q3 2020 has shown that 14.5 per cent of those working in engineering are female. This is a small but important increase from 12 per cent as reported in 2018.

The proportion of women working in engineering has increased over time both proportionally and in absolute numbers, outpacing the rate seen in the wider workforce.

For those of you who like to see the data, the number of women working in engineering occupations has risen from 722k in Q2 of 2016 to 907k in Q2 of 2020. This represents a 25.7 per cent increase in women in engineering occupations compared to a 4.6 per cent rise in the number of women in the overall workforce within that same period. The majority of these women come from the existing workforce, some have also joined the engineering workforce from full-time study or a period of unemployment or long-term sickness and disability.

Comment: Removing barriers will boost STEM sector recruitment

So, is an increase of 2.5 percentage points in two years good progress? It’s certainly encouraging and movement in the right direction and we must seek to understand more about what has driven this positive movement so we can further support it.

Nevertheless, it’s still a serious concern that women represent only 14.5 per cent of those working in engineering. Women make up half the population, but we draw on such a small proportion of their talent. The engineering sector needs to work harder to drive change. And it’s not just about having more women in the engineering workforce. It’s also about having a better representation of people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds as well as those from different socio-economic backgrounds and people with disabilities – indeed we need a true breadth of diversity of thought and experience. A lack of diversity will be hampering our insight and innovation, and likely limiting our ability to recover after the pandemic.

We will need to work collaboratively, sharing insights from across the sector, to achieve greater impact and shift the dial towards more inclusion. We recently published case studies from three of our Corporate Members – Jacobs, Siemens and Rolls Royce – to share how these companies are building enthusiasm to encourage and help young people pursue careers in engineering.

One thing these organisations have in common is their passion to work with other like-minded organisations to widen and increase their recruitment by providing young people with authentic role models, finding new and innovative ways to reach out and demonstrating to young people the different pathways and careers available to them.

There’s a recognition that businesses need to not only support conversations about equality, diversity and inclusion but to have policies in place that support inclusion.

tomorrow's engineers
A Tomorrow’s Engineers Energy Quest workshop at Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham

I’ve often stated that engineering is for everyone and should involve everyone – we all have a stake in how our world is built, how it functions and serves society. This year’s COP26 taking place in Glasgow aims to respond to the climate emergency our planet is facing – from the increase in extreme weather events, to how our cities cope with polluting vehicles, and how we achieve net zero. These are not just issues for policymakers and activists – we need engineers and scientists to help come up with solutions.

It’s timely then that the ninth Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (#TEWeek 21), taking place from 8 to 12 November during the second week of the COP26 Summit, gives the engineering community an opportunity to speak with one voice about the importance of engineering in tackling climate change. Recent evidence shows that young people who agree that engineers are important for improving the environment were seven times more likely to be interested in a career that involved engineering.

Central to TE Week 21 is ‘School’s COP’ where students around the country are invited to discuss the vital importance of achieving net zero and cutting carbon emissions.

I urge you all to get involved in TE Week and showcase to young people that engineering is a creative, problem-solving, exciting career that improves the world around us. We’ve put together a resource with some ideas for how you might want to approach this.

The ‘School’s COP’ event will also explore how the engineers behind technological and scientific breakthroughs will be at the heart of the world’s response to climate change in the coming years.

We’re looking for the UK’s most inspiring, young engineers and technicians working to achieve net zero, so if that’s you or you know an amazing engineer doing incredible work in this field, we’d love to hear from you. Contact the team on hello@teweek.org.uk.

Find out more about Tomorrow’s Engineers Week