We have watched with interest how our counterparts around the world have similarly struggled with community misconceptions around engineering. Like us, overseas engineering bodies are working to address these issues.
In the US and the UK, confusion within the community about the role of engineering mirrors our own; and we can learn from their experiences – and share ours.
In the US, the American National Academy of Engineering has devoted considerable resources to addressing the issue of public awareness and perceptions of engineering. Their programs, research and the work done to date are similar to some of the great initiatives being undertaken in Australia.
For example, the GirlTalk radio program connects school-age girls with women involved in engineering (and maths and sciences), opening up an engaging dialogue about these topics in a language they can all relate to.
Likewise, the myriad of outreach activities around the US and the commitment of ‘the engineering team’ to get involved are extremely important elements of addressing the issues at large.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the Royal Academy of Engineering faces very similar issues to our own. Just as we found in our benchmarking study, a recent report called “Engineering our Future: Inspiring and attracting tomorrow’s engineers” portrays engineering as an invisible industry that doesn’t appeal to young people.
According to the report, there are “disturbingly low levels of awareness and interest, and a picture of confusion about the role of engineering, with the majority of young people and parents regarding it as dirty and menial work.”
Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid, the energy company which commissioned the report, said: “We need lots of very clever people who can make things happen and think outside the box to create a different world in the future. We need to inspire today’s youth and help them to see how exciting and interesting a career in engineering can be.”
Starting at the primary school level, the National Grid and the Royal Academy will use the findings in the report to engage young people and increase awareness about the real role of engineering in society.
This is precisely our mission in Australia.