How do we inspire the engineers of tomorrow?

Posted by Derek Mason

25th October 2022

Photo credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

How do we make sure there are enough young engineers in training, and that the shortage of engineers doesn’t continue indefinitely? One way is to make children aware of engineering as a career as early as possible.

That’s the idea behind the annual National Engineering Day – formerly known as This is Engineering Day. Planned for Wednesday 2nd November 2022, it’s a chance for schools, colleges and the public to get a better idea of the engineering roles available, and the impact they can have.

By sharing inspirational stories online, and encouraging teachers to stage events for their students, the goal is to encourage people of all ages to see engineering as an enjoyable and forward-thinking career option. There are plenty of challenges to solve both in the UK and globally, so we’re going to need all the engineers we can get.

With astronaut Tim Peake, racing driver Sir Lewis Hamilton Hon FREng, TV presenter Konnie Huq, paralympic athlete Jonnie Peacock and others supporting the day on social media, the Royal Academy of Engineering is hoping to get more visibility for the profession.

Enthusiasm for solving problems often starts young and needs to be nurtured and encouraged from primary school or earlier. One approach that appeals to me is Tinkering School, which was started by software engineer Gever Tulley. Children today often lead an overly safe and sanitised existence, and his school lets them mess about with sticks, wood, power tools and anything else they can get their hands on.

They end up working on all kinds of creative projects, from treehouses to rollercoasters – you can find out more in this 3-minute TED talk.

I think that while it’s good to build awareness of the life-changing benefits of engineering through social media, it’s these kinds of hands-on activities that are key to creating the engineers of tomorrow. It would be great if more of these kinds of classes and camps could be set up in the UK.

My own interest in engineering was fostered at a young age when I used to spend my little bit of pocket money on a hammer and nails and build all sorts of things with timber and whatever other materials I could lay my hands on. Finding out that I was good at maths and science then helped me pursue a career in engineering. I seem to have fostered this spirit of inquisitiveness with my children as they grew up with me being an engineer, firstly working for other firms and then starting my own firm. My daughter, Christa, even helped me decide on the name “Super Structures Associates”. Christa has followed in my footsteps and has graduated as a Structural Engineer. My son, Kent, has graduated as a Mechanical Engineer. We are now a family of engineers, so it shows that with the right environment and knowledge, we can interest young people in pursuing a career in engineering.

We know we’re looking at an ongoing shortage of engineers in multiple industries in the UK, so hopefully these kinds of activities and promotions will switch a new generation on to the opportunities open to them in this sector.

Meanwhile, if you need assistance from a structural engineer for an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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