Three quarters of London students cannot name a single engineer — and even those interested in the profession are more likely to be inspired by film characters such as Iron Man than giants like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a report has found.
Most of the students questioned for a national survey said they had not received enough careers advice about engineering. Of the London students surveyed, 76 per cent said they could not name any engineers.
More amusingly, one named Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean character, while another said: “That guy with the sideburns and accent on Channel 4.”
But more than a third of students said that the Iron Man film had inspired them to think about a career in the profession. Others said the films Transformers, The Matrix and Star Wars had made them aware of the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and maths — they should study to become an engineer.
The survey of 16 to 19-year-olds was carried out by Career Academies UK, a charity that helps young people prepare for the world of work. It follows a Government-commissioned review warning UK companies are relying on immigrants because British school pupils are not studying subjects that lead to engineering.
Business leaders have repeatedly warned of a shortage of British graduates qualified to fill jobs in the profession. Anne Spackman, executive director of Career Academies UK, said: “Engineering is an area rich in job opportunities but lacking the skilled workers to fill them. It is hugely important to the UK economy yet many people don’t realise the impact it has on our lives. We are working with a range of employers to help students experience engineering through internships.”
More than a third of students questioned for the survey said they thought engineering was a dirty, outdoor career, best suited to men. Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, said pupils at all-girl schools were more likely than those at mixed schools to study stereotypically male subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry, that can lead on to careers in the profession. “Girls face pressures to conform to gender stereotypes,” she said.
The survey was published to coincide with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, a campaign to change outdated perceptions about engineering.