‘Inspiring the next generation of engineers’ research report
Building on research from 2015, which focused on 9 to 12-year-olds and their parents, the IET commissioned CHILDWISE to explore what factors inform parents’ and children’s opinions of engineering and technology as potential career areas. The report also looked at what might be preventing parents from more actively promoting these careers, and what might encourage them to do so.
The research found that children’s love for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is on the decline, with interest in Science amongst 9 to 12-year-olds falling 10%, Design and Technology down 12% and ICT / Computing falling furthest at 14% over the last four years.
The new poll, which also surveyed primary and secondary teachers’ perceptions of STEM education, also found that time pressures of having to teach the full curriculum was the biggest obstacle in engaging pupils in STEM subjects (72% of primary and 63% of secondary teachers) which could be linked to the decline.
More than half of primary school teachers (57%) also reported poor resources as a factor, whereas class distractions (42%) and a lack of pupil interest (42%) provide the biggest difficulties for secondary teachers.
The gender divide among children also presents an issue. Amongst 6 to 15-year-olds Maths tops the poll as girls’ and boys’ favourite subject (more than 2 in 5), girls enjoy Art (56%) and English (38%) the most, whereas boys are most interested in Maths (49%) and ICT (46%).
This poses fresh concern for the future of careers in STEM fields, such as engineering and technology, where reliance on Physics still remains a key requirement, and what more can be done to support the education system in bolstering children’s interests in these fields.
It seems however that perceptions of engineering and technology careers are on the up with more than half of children describing engineering as skilled, followed by around two in five who think they are interesting, difficult, creative or important with words such as messy and dirty on the decline.
When looking at children’s career aspirations girls are more interested in the Arts, Education and Childcare, Healthcare, Hair and Beauty and Agriculture (including animal care), whilst boys are much more interested in Information Technology, Engineering, Technology, Sport, Construction and Property and Public Services.
Engineering features in third place overall, but only one in seven girls themselves would consider an engineering job (13%), whilst technology is in the fourth slot, with only one in nine girls considering a career in this area (11%).