STEM Archives - Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd
Posts Tagged :

STEM

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.

5 Minutes With… Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst, SPIE UK

In the latest instalment of our FM industry interview series, we sat down with Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst at SPIE UK to talk about how the industry can encourage more women to move into STEM-based careers as International Women’s Day (March 8th) approaches…

Tell us about your current role.

Environment and Energy Data Analyst. I help advise businesses on how they need to adapt to adhere to new environmental and energy regulations. By monitoring clientsenergy use and assessing their buildings, I can advise them on how to reduce their energy consumption, specifically when assisting them with the completion of their ESOS reports.

How can we encourage more women into STEM careers?

Accessibility is a huge problem. We need to make it as easy as possible for women to follow a STEM career path and promote the opportunities available to women at a young age. Although engineering is known for being maledominated, an effort should be made to integrate women amongst the male cohort. This helps to stop issues that may arise due to segregation while enabling different ideas to be shared.

What’s your advice to those looking into following a career in engineering?

I suggest joining a professional body and attending relevant events. Not only does this give you the opportunity to learn from others but helps you to start having conversations with the right people in the industry who might end up being a mentor further down the line.  

With the percentage of women in the industry dropping off over time, how can the sector retain more females

Female networks, such as SPIEs SoSPIE Ladies network has inspired me to remain in engineering as you can seek council from others in a similar situation to yourself.  

How to inspire the next generation of female talent in STEM

By Justine Salmon, Division Director, ABM UK

The facilities management (FM) and engineering industry has an image problem that  needs to change. People don’t know about the opportunities it offers, and can often think it’s all about men and oily rags. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

As an industry, we’re seeing the impact of these negative perceptions. There’s an acute lack of emerging female talent and a growing skills gap across the board.

Looking into the roots of this problem, ABM UK commissioned research amongst 2,000 students1 to find out what they knew about the industry and its career prospects. Worryingly, the research found that a fifth (21%) of girls associated ‘engineering’ with ‘a boy’s job’. Going further, over a third (39%) of students said they wouldn’t consider working in engineering and FM because they didn’t know anything about it.

To address this, ABM UK set up the Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P.) in 2017, engaging year seven students with the principles of facilities management and engineering in a five-part course.

In just three years, the programme has grown from 36 London students enrolled in the pilot year, to now having been taught to over 450 students across the UK. We’re seeing first-hand how initiatives like J.E.E.P. can get students, particularly girls, interested in STEM subjects and inspire the next generation of technical talent.

If you’re looking to engage girls with STEM subjects, consider the following three steps.

  1. Make STEM applicable to everyday life.

One of the most effective ways to get young girls interested in FM-related activities is to apply lessons to real-life scenarios. Think about simple ways to make theory more engaging and use relatable scenarios to build upon their initial interest.

Our curriculum tasks the students with responding to FM problems that teams need to anticipate or respond to in real life, such as a black out in a shopping centre during peak hours. The students are challenged to identify the cause of the issue, create an immediate solution and look at a possible long-term fix. By encouraging problem-solving in a familiar environment, the association of FM with a specific gender is deconstructed.

2. Present relevant role models. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of J.E.E.P. is session three, where team members from across ABM UK visit schools for a Q&A about the industry.

It’s so important to have female representation in the class to demonstrate that careers in FM and engineering aren’t solely for men. We celebrate our accomplishments, career paths and projects that we’re working on, and encourage them to think about other women in the industry who have made significant changes to society.

3. Put emphasis on the process, not on grades.

At the end of the course, our J.E.E.P. students aren’t given a final grade. We want to be encouraging students to broaden their perspectives and try something new, rather than focus on their scores.

When introducing students into new fields of learning, encouragement is key. Turn their focus to the experiment they’re working on and reassure them that mistakes are unavoidable and will only help guide them to a solution. Without fear that making mistakes will impact their scores, we find that students become confident working through trial and error.

We are determined to change the face of  FM and engineering in the UK; to inspire and establish a new and enthusiastic generation of young talent that is gender even. New government data2 shows that in 2019, the number of women working in STEM- related occupations in the UK reached one million for the first time. If this trend continues, we should see 30 percent of STEM roles filled by women by 2030.

While this is great progress, we see this as an opportunity to do more. What better way to engage female talent, than to focus our attention on the next generation.

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.

Access the original article here