QEPrize research: UK teens love tech but don't make the link with engineering

A group of students looking at a large interactive screen at an exhibit.

Categories: Technology

Image courtesy of Jason Alden.

16 March 2016


To mark UK Science Week, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has today published new research showing 16-17-year-olds are most interested in technology out of all the STEM subjects.

The QEPrize’s Create the Future Report, a survey of ten of the world’s largest economies, shows UK teenagers’ interest in technology (85%) outstrips the global average of 81%. However, while 82% of UK teenagers saw engineering as integral to technological innovations, only 21% said they were interested in engineering as a career. The report reveals a complex picture of young people’s attitudes to engineering, their desire for it to effect change and their chances to break into the profession.

Key findings from the report discover that across STEM subjects, the UK teenagers’ interest outstrips that of young people in Germany, Japan and South Korea; however, specific interest in engineering fell below all the other countries surveyed.

When UK teenagers were asked what would inspire them to become an engineer the highest motivator (36%) was the opportunity to create new innovations, have an impact on society and make a difference to the world - they ranked these benefits above career opportunity, income and security and respectability.72% of young people believe climate change and depleting energy resources (73%) are major concerns for the future, with half feeling optimistic that engineering can address these issues in the next 20 year.

However, around 30% of potential engineers were put off the career as they felt an engineering degree was too hard, too expensive and that they lacked adequate funding for training. Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, the newly appointed chairman of the QEPrize judging panel and vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton said: “We need to do more to educate people on the role engineering plays in technology and help young people understand that technology is a product of engineering. The challenge facing the engineering community is to shift the love of tech to a love of engineering. There is no silver bullet solution to this issue, but if we work together as parents, teachers, companies, institutions and even governments, then we will see a change in attitudes and debunk the myths surrounding our profession.”Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation said: “Engineering is an exciting career offering endless opportunities to create the next technological innovation and tackle the biggest issues facing the world. Sadly, it suffers from an image problem in the UK that must be reversed if we are going to attract the next generation into the field. The QEPrize celebrates the outstanding engineers and the world-changing innovations they create to capture the public imagination and reconnect people to the critical impact the profession has on society. ”

Click here to read the new Create the Future supplement.

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