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Inspiring the next generation: How to encourage young people into engineering

The future of engineering has never been more important. According to a report by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, the UK science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors are experiencing a shortage of 173,000 workers, and 49% of engineering businesses are struggling to recruit skilled workers. Therefore, as the technological world continues to evolve and advance, the government strives to prioritise STEM education within primary and secondary schools.

Here we explore the ways that the UK is encouraging young people into engineering careers, from stimulating interest at a young age to creating an inclusive space for underrepresented groups in STEM and equipping students with transferable skills they will use for life.

Stimulating an interest in STEM education from a young age

There are many organisations that are encouraging STEM learning within primary education. A continuing professional development (CPD) programme, STEM learning supports primary school teachers in its endeavour to inspire the next generation of engineers. It offers regional and remote courses, bursaries, and other online materials. The Institute of Engineering and Technology also offers free material for children aged between 5 and 11 years of age, such as lesson plans and education videos. This equips teachers with the tools to inspire the next generation.

In addition to this, children can begin their STEM education outside of the classroom. To encourage this, parents can teach their children to question the world around them. Even the toys children play with can be used for this purpose. Educational toys, such as coding robots, enrich children with life skills as well as the tools to excel in STEM subjects.

Encouraging STEM subjects within underrepresented groups in schools

In order to inspire the future generation of engineers, we must continue to offer educational tools to underrepresented groups. In 2021, women accounted for just 14.5% of the engineering sector. The number of girls taking STEM subjects in school is significantly lower than boys. This is apparent in A-Level technology subjects, such as computer science. In 2021, the number of A-Level students taking computer science rose from 12,428 to 13,829 across the UK. Out of these, 11,798 were boys and 2,031 were girls. This gender gap within STEM subjects can be partly explained as a result of harmful stereotypes. According to Women In Tech, early socialisation and classroom culture can deter girls away from STEM subjects, as they are traditionally portrayed as boy-dominated subjects.

Computer science and technology subjects are a great way to inspire the next generation of engineers. The skills that young men and women will learn in these subjects can form a foundational knowledge to succeed as an engineer. This can lead to the cultivation of multiple skills, for example, the development of engineering software such as building design software.

Furthermore, students from low socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to choose STEM subjects in school. Research from In2ScienceUK shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can be 2.2 times less likely to take triple science at GCSE when compared to other students. This could be due to a number of factors, from individual student interests to counter-culture within disadvantaged youth.

To tackle this, the UK government is investing money and resources into initiatives. These schemes encourage underrepresented groups to take part in STEM education and inspire the next generation of engineers. It intends to improve the accessibility of computer science with female students at GCSE and A-Level. This corresponds with other incentives, such as the Gender Balance in Computing Programme.

Thankfully, the efforts to make engineering an inclusive space is paying off. The number of people within these underrepresented groups undergoing a degree in a STEM subject has increased. Between 2010–2020, the number of women accepted onto undergraduate courses rose by 49%, and the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieving places on such courses increased by a staggering 79%. This is an encouraging sign for the future minds of engineering!

Highlight the importance of the transferable skills students learn in STEM subjects

STEM education equips children and young adults with transferable skills which will aid them in their future endeavours. These skills transcend the ability to solve an equation or design a building. By highlighting the importance of these transferable skills, students will realise the value of STEM education and how this can help them in multiple careers, from business management to teaching and much more.

STEM education requires students to think for themselves. Tasks often involve problem-solving, and this encourages critical thinking. Not only is this skill highly important in STEM careers, but it is also a well-respected transferable skill. Any career involving research and development would benefit from this.

Another transferable skill students learn from STEM subjects is teamwork. To work in a team, they will develop their communication skills, which is vital for practically any career path. Finally, STEM education requires management skills, from overseeing a project to delegating tasks. This is particularly beneficial for careers in business, as well as any engineering role.

Overall, the UK is taking the necessary steps to encourage the younger generation into STEM careers. This can start as early as childhood, with the toys they play with to the subjects at primary school. Although STEM subjects are predominately made up of boys, more and more girls are choosing to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects, such as computer science. As STEM begins to create an inclusive space for more underrepresented groups, students will gain transferable skills that can be used within engineering and a plethora of other careers.

More safety with top lockout procedures implemented at your site

By Brady Corporation

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Buildings and human induced vibration – The risks & the solutions

Whether it’s a building or bridge, human footfall needs to be considered by engineers working on the project to ensure that the end result for users is safe and comfortable (remember the Millennium Bridge ‘wobble’!). Oasys Software explains why human induced vibration is an important consideration…

Fluttering and resonance

Vibrations can affect structures in a wide range of ways. Two of the main ways are resonance and aeroelastic fluttering.

When Object A vibrates at the same natural frequency as Object B, this is known as resonance. As a result, object B resonates with this and will begin to vibrate too. Think singing to break a wine glass! Although the person singing isn’t touching the glass, the vibrations of their voice are resonating with the glass’s natural frequency, causing this vibration to get stronger and stronger and eventually, break the glass.

Aeroelastic flutter differs slightly; for example, a force is applied to Object B, causing it to shake. It’s not necessarily at the same frequency as Object B’s natural vibration, but it makes Object B move all the same.

When an object resonates, it is technically fluttering too. But not everything that flutters is necessarily resonating. This is how confusion over disasters such as the Tacoma Bridge collapse occur — for a long time, and to this day, the event is used as a textbook example of resonance. However, it’s been argued that the bridge’s collapse wasn’t caused by resonance, but by fluttering.

Fluttering also occurs with human induced vibrations, and an example of this is when human movement is applying force, causing the structure to vibrate. Some instances would also see resonation happening too, but it wouldn’t be a certainty.

Engineers have to ensure that their designs reduce the damage or discomfort caused by either fluttering or resonating.

The downsides

The structure and users within a building can be compromised when fluttering or resonation occurs, and it can have a range of impacts:

  • Human health suffering. Research has found that vibrations in buildings and structures can cause depression and even motion sickness in inhabitants. Buildings naturally respond to external factors such as the wind or human footfall within. This low-frequency vibration can be felt, even subconsciously, by people. It has been argued that modern designs featuring thinner floor slabs and wider spacing in column design mean that these new builds are not as effective at dampening vibrations as older buildings are.
  • Jeopardising structural integrity. Eventually, the build-up of constant vibrations on a structure can lead to structural integrity being compromised. A worse-case scenario would be the complete collapse of said structure.
  • Swaying bridges. The Millennium Bridge is one of the best examples of resonance caused by human induced vibrations and fluttering. As people walked across the bridge, the vibrations and swaying caused oscillations in the bridge. Everyone crossing the bridge would then sway at the same time to avoid falling over, resulting in a cycle of increasing and amplifying the swaying effect.
  • Jeopardise integrity of sensitive equipment. Depending on what the building is used for, what is within and what can be affected by the vibrations of those inside the building. Universities, for example, may have sensitive equipment whose accuracy and performance could be damaged by vibrations.

How software can help

Modern designs that favour thinner slabs and wider column design and spacing tend to be susceptible to all forms of vibration, whether it is human-induced or otherwise.

At the design stage, it is important for engineers to use appropriate structural analysis software to test footfall on a design and see the resulting vibrations.

Vibrations are inevitable, but engineers must account for a wide range of catalysts that trigger vibrations in a structure, such as human footfall, adapting their overall design accordingly.

Sources:

https://www.oasys-software.com/news/analysing-vibration-with-gsa/

https://www.oasys-software.com/case-studies/footfall-analysis-singapores-helix-bridge/

https://www.oasys-software.com/case-studies/princeton-university-frick-laboratory/

http://homepage.tudelft.nl/p3r3s/MSc_projects/reportRoos.pdf

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/05/24/science-busts-the-biggest-myth-ever-about-why-bridges-collapse/#1b9e3b001f4c

https://phys.org/news/2017-03-impact-bridges-skyscrapers-human-health.html

https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-resonance-and-aeroelastic-flutter

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/03/19/wobbly-skyscrapers-may-trigger-motion-sickness-depression-warn/

Industry Spotlight: Advice and tips on attracting future engineers…

Doug Anderson, sales and marketing manager at Guttridge, discusses the importance of attracting future engineers and offers a few top tips along the way.

As a company, it’s important to not only chase the next customer, but also chase the next employee. The engineering sector should constantly attract new talent and actively encourage more females into what has traditionally been a male-dominated environment. It’s vital that future engineers should be motivated and passionate at the earliest stage in their professional development…

Why work in engineering?

The engineering sector is regarded as a cornerstone of the UK’s economic progression. In the future, engineers will be charged with producing cutting-edge technology and building structures that will help the UK tackle any renewable energy issues. To achieve this, there needs to be as many people entering the industry as possible. Organisations must remove any existing preconceptions and make engineering an attractive career path for all young people, by taking actions to promote and encourage working in the industry. How do we do this? Well here are four tactics to help secure the future engineering talent.

Generate interest early

Firstly, it’s vital to ensure that children and students of all ages, male and female, are informed about engineering. There are many different disciplines within the sector, offering different opportunities. Young students who are passionate about engineering and keen to enter the industry should have the opportunity to make informed educational decisions in order to realise their ambition.

The education sector and schools are improving increasing awareness in the sector, by using dynamic teaching methods to help bring science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to life. Attracting girls to the industry is a huge priority as they are still scarce in the engineering profession despite the career opportunities it offers.

As well as emphasising the importance of STEM to students, male and female, it is just as important that teachers and parents are aware of the importance and benefits that working in engineering can bring.

Earning and learning

In the past, engineering companies tend to lack an on-campus presence at schools, colleges and universities which hasn’t helped graduate intake into the sector. However, in recent years the visibility in terms of career potential are now in front of young talent.

The cost of attending university deters many young people, so it’s crucial to make them aware of the existence of other routes to a successful and rewarding career. Apprenticeships and internships offer an opportunity to learn whilst earning a wage, and can become a huge step to further education later in life. In-house training is offered alongside fully funded qualifications to help employees enhance their formal education. Organisations need to provide these development opportunities to help attract engineers from a wider range of social backgrounds. Learning on the job can produce more well-rounded employees – as it requires hard work and dedication.

Removing industry preconceptions

In the past engineering has been perceived as a male-oriented industry, and the lack of female engineers in the UK suggests that very little has changed. Given the diversity roles within the sector, there is absolutely no justification for this.

Perhaps as an industry we need to effectively relay the message that a career in engineering offers a wealth of opportunities that actually take place in very modern and high-tech environments, as opposed to grubby ones.

Wealth of opportunity

The scale of opportunity that engineering can provide for entry level students is superb. Engineering is an exciting career field to be involved in, and new opportunities are always available for qualified engineers. It is a flourishing and fast growing sector, not to mention engineering graduates earn some of the best salaries in the country.

Many engineering businesses have offices overseas, so there are also opportunities for graduates to travel abroad, especially to the MENA area.

When it comes to interviews and the selection process, recruitment of new staff in the engineering sector needs to be based on talent alone, rather than gender or any other arbitrary factor. The more that a company builds its female workforce, the more women will be attracted to fill positions in the industry, and the industry will thrive.

It is therefore up to those currently involved in the engineering sector, to spread the word and improve the appreciation of a career which knows no bounds, and continue to do what we can for our future engineers.

At Guttridge we encourage the STEM subjects by working with The Imagineering Foundation to introduce school children to the fascinating world of engineering and technology. We are seeing extremely encouraging results with our local school and are working hard to ensure the children are inspired to consider a career in engineering.

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