Just launched, the Engineering UK 2020 Educational Pathways into Engineering Report provides a comprehensive picture of the trends in STEM educational participation and attainment across academic and technical pathways into engineering as at March 2020.
Some of the findings from the report indicate that progress has been made - there has been increased take-up of some GCSE and A level subjects that can lead into engineering, such as in biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science, while technical education reforms are also enabling students to be more prepared for the world of work. However, young people’s knowledge of engineering across all education stages still needs to be improved with just 42% of boys and 31% of girls saying they know what they need to do next to become an engineer. There is also an acute shortage of STEM subject teachers in both secondary and further education. Almost three quarters of FE college principals rank engineering as the most difficult subject to recruit sufficiently qualified teaching staff for.
The report also highlights the increased urgency of creating more opportunities for under-represented groups in engineering including those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds whose challenges are likely to be accentuated by school lockdown, as well as the need to address inequities for young people from BAME backgrounds, with black pupils 2.5 times more likely to be misallocated to a lower set in maths than white pupils.
And while there was a higher proportion of entrants to engineering and technology degrees from minority ethnic backgrounds (30%) than among the student population as a whole (26%), 73% achieved a first or upper second degree, compared with 83% of their white counterparts. These ethnicity attainment gaps were also observed across HE more widely, suggesting there is a systemic issue within the UK HE system that needs to be addressed.
Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive, EngineeringUK says: “‘Educational Pathways into Engineering’ was written before the coronavirus pandemic took hold – it seems a world away. We decided to publish the report as planned to highlight the barriers that existed prior to the pandemic and that are now likely to mean it’s even more challenging and only more important to increase the number and diversity of young people choosing engineering.
We need to work together to understand what causes under-representation of certain groups of young people progressing into engineering and how tackle it at every stage. We will need to: improve knowledge of engineering through the curriculum; support teachers and schools to deliver high quality STEM education and careers guidance; and ensure that our education system it fit to cultivate the skills needed for the UK, now and in the future.”
While the Educational Pathways Report provides a detailed look at trends over recent years, Engineering Insights provides a digital resource that draws statistics from the Office for National Statistics Business Impacts of Covid Survey (BICS) and the Index of Production and tracks the economic implications on engineering in, as far as possible, ‘real time’.
Leevers continues: “The pandemic has accentuated the need to publish information and insights quickly to reflect the evolving environment and help inform policy and action. Engineering Insights, newly released on the EngineeringUK website, will do just that and will evolve over time to cover a range of wider topics as engineering in the UK re-builds.”