The original aim of the campaign was to, “…celebrate the world and wonder of engineering. Over the course of 2018, we want to shake-up people’s ideas about engineering, inspiring the next generation of innovators, inventors and problem solvers by showing them what engineers actually do.”
The campaign successfully reached out to stakeholders and partners like EEF, schools, colleges, universities and individuals, and brought individual campaigns under one umbrella organisation. This was not too dissimilar to previous attempts, including the Your Life campaign which kicked off in 2014.
Across the year we’ve seen a whole host of events put on across the country, to name a few, the Big Bang Fair, the New Scientist Live Event which I was lucky enough to attend and some upcoming events being run by EEF members including a Green meets Grey event. Big or small, each event has contributed to the shifting public perceptions of engineering and manufacturing. The Royal Academy of Engineering campaign, ‘This is Engineering’ was particularly powerful in changing the perceptions of young people, and it’s no surprise when you see the video:
A survey of 1,000 young people before and after the campaign launch indicated a 41% increase in the number of teenagers who, after seeing the campaign, said they would consider a career in engineering. Furthermore, our perceptions work found 70% of adults agree that the UK can't tackle future problems without a strong manufacturing sector. Therefore campaigns like Year of Engineering are vital to promote the importance of jobs in our sectors.
Successfully changing the perception of engineering.
The real test will be keeping this up and ensuring that those inspired to pursue a career in engineering can do so through both academic and technical education options. Inspiring young people is one thing, making sure that the education pipeline then delivers the STEM skills that these campaigns highlight, is another.
As the National Audit Office put “…some initiatives are getting positive results but there is an urgent need for the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to coordinate plans and set out what they are trying to achieve. A more precise understanding of the challenge would allow the Departments to better target and prioritise their efforts to deliver the STEM skills the economy needs”.
Now is the time to capitalise on the success of the Year of Engineering, and build on it by evaluating how effective the STEM initiatives out there are and targeting the areas that need it most. It’s also vital that they are actually deliver the STEM skills manufacturers need. We know they have potential with 63% of manufacturers saying STEM based initiatives between business and schools will encourage more young people into manufacturing.
This goes hand-in-hand with making sure that as the apprenticeship levy and T Level programme continue to evolve our education system is fit to deliver the STEM skills we need, both by boosting the take up of subjects like Physics and Design and Technology, but also making sure we have the teachers to teach these subjects.