As engineers we all have a role to play in attracting curious and creative young people into engineering careers, say Engineers Australia President Trish White and CEO Peter McIntyre.
Many engineers recall being curious at a young age, taking things apart to see how they work, constantly asking questions of teachers and parents. This curiosity, this thirst to know more, to understand and to make things better is often the hallmark of a budding engineer.
Yet market research commissioned by Engineers Australia found that an engineering career is often suggested only to those who show an affinity for maths and science. Engineering is not widely associated with a broader range of knowledge and skills.
Our research also found that young people find it hard to get a good understanding of what engineering is really like. Many engineers had a close relative working in engineering who was a significant influence on their career choice. But what of those children without engineers in the family? Who are their engineering role models? How can we open their eyes to the opportunities in engineering?
Danielle George, this month’s create cover star, is a professor at Manchester University in the UK and a science presenter for the BBC. Through these roles she seeks to inspire engineers of the future to solve the big, global challenges we face.
Engineers Australia is also working hard to promote the benefits of an engineering career to young people and their influencers. Our media profile has grown exponentially over the past 18 months and we have made a deliberate effort to reach out beyond the engineering community, to the wider public.
For example, in December we worked with The Weekend Australian to create a four-page profile of Jacqui Savage, a biomedical engineer, focusing on engineering as real-world problem solving. It also covered the time Jacqui spends with high school students breaking down stereotypes – explaining that engineering is Snapchat and Instagram as well as hard hats and building sites – and showing how engineers impact everybody’s lives.
In August, Engineers Australia launched the STAR portal in partnership with the Office of the Chief Scientist, an online resource full of STEM-related activities for children, parents and teachers with the intent of engaging more children in engineering. Beyond this, our STEM activities across Australia reach tens of thousands of students each year. We are also calling on engineering employers to do more to recruit and retain women in engineering roles – another way in which we can provide a diverse range of role models to inspire the next generation of engineers.
So how can you help? As engineers we all have a role to play in promoting engineering as an exciting career that truly improves people’s lives. You could visit schools to talk about your career, or even better, to showcase the things you have created and the impact you have had on society. You can share stories of engineering’s impact on the world with friends and family members and you can volunteer to support Engineers Australia’s STEM activities. Are you ready to inspire Australia’s future engineering talent?