Despite a high rate of enjoyment at a young age, British children aren’t taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects further, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has found that only 5% of 4-12 year olds would choose to drop science or design & technology from their studies.
In fact, two thirds (67%) of childrenin this age group don’t find STEM subjects boring, contrary to popular opinion, and with the wealth of technical gadgets available today, the younger generation is becoming increasingly plugged in when it comes to understanding how these items work. Seven in ten (70%) boys and girls say they just couldn’t live without their electronic devices, including smartphones, e-readers, and tablets – an attachment which highlights their interest in STEM.
Yet, despite this, there are too few young people, particularly girls, choosing to study STEM subjects at A-Level or at university, which is compounding the shortage of young people going into engineering and technology careers. Government plans to drop Design & Technology from the curriculum are expected to exacerbate the situation, as fewer students will have the opportunity to engage in the creative and problem fixing side of engineering at school.
Outdated stereotypes also play a significant role in turning young people off engineering careers.
To help bridge the gap, the IET is calling on parents to encourage more children to take STEM subjects further into their A-Level, university and career choices. The Engineer a Better World campaign is designed to support parents and young people in finding out more about modern engineering. With the UK currently experiencing a shortage of engineers, the issue has never been more pressing for the industry.
Another way the IET is helping to address the issue is by holding its second annual Engineering Open House Day, since 94% of children say that visiting behind the scenes at a science or engineering related venue would make STEM careers more enjoyable and appealing to them. By taking kids along to an event and showing their children the types of careers available, parents can help to both inspire and sustain, their kids’ interest. Some of these events are taking place in the North of England, including in Peterlee, Manchester and Warrington.
Naomi Climer, IET President, commented: “We know that parents are role models and influencers over their children’s futures, so it’s crucial that they support their children – particularly girls – as much as possible if they are showing an interest in science, engineering, technology and maths. Some parents have told us they do not feel equipped with enough knowledge and this plays a part in why kids are not encouraged at home about science and engineering jobs. We have to change that.
“That’s why we’re holding our Engineering Open House Day this month – to give parents the opportunity to bring their children along, for free, to venues like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the BBC, Shell and the National Theatre, and go behind the scenes to explore the creativity and diversity that lies within.”
Professor Brian Cox, who is supporting the IET’s Engineering Open House Day so that children and parents can see for themselves how engineers and scientists make a difference day in, day out, commented:
“It’s a nonsense that careers in science, technology and engineering are boring or only for boffins – and it annoys me that people still have these perceptions. My love of science started at school and from being in a pop band – when an inspired physics teacher helped me make a divider circuit that meant my drum machine could connect with my keyboard.
“I think it’s really important that young kids and their parents can get an insight into what engineering is all about – and understand its connection with so many things that interest them like music, entertainment and space discovery. We need to encourage children’s creativity and imagination at school and at home and to make them think about the huge impact they can have in the world through science and technology. And we need to help parents understand more about engineering and science, including making sure they can recognise qualities in their children that might lead to them being good engineers.”
For more information on the IET’s Engineering Open House Day on and around 29 July 2016, and to register for places, visit: www.engineer-a-better-world.org/engineering-open-house-day.
For more information about the IET’s Engineer a Better World Campaign, visit www.engineer-a-better-world.org.