Two thirds of young people don’t know what engineers do. Do you?

In this guest blog, the Royal Academy of Engineering highlights that misconceptions about engineers, and the lack of understanding of the profession, means young people are missing opportunities to make a difference to our world.

• Research by EngineeringUK shows that 76% of 11-19-year-olds don’t know much about what people working in engineering do

• While 42% think making a difference and having a positive impact on the world is important when choosing a career, almost half hadn’t ever considered becoming an engineer

• 72% of parents do not know a lot about what people working in the profession do, and yet 63% of 11 – 16-year-olds would consider going to their parents for careers advice

• The Royal Academy of Engineering is launching This is Engineering Day on 6 November to raise awareness of what an engineer is, and to celebrate those who shape our future.

Engineering could be one of the most poorly understood STEM careers, with new research from EngineeringUK showing that over three quarters (76%) of young people aged 11 – 19 do not know much about what those working in engineering do – and this could have far-reaching implications for all of us.

Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum, there are many engineering roles that will be crucial in positively shaping our future society and protecting our environment. However, the UK has a shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers every year, and research shows that many young people (52%) “probably or definitely” do not want to become an engineer.

What do engineers do? 

The World Economic Forum has identified a number of jobs that will be in demand in the future and are crucial to shaping the world we live in for the better – and many of these important roles involve engineering:

New Technology Specialists, with the expertise to make solar and wind energy more flexible and reliable. One way to do this is to advance energy storage capacity so that we can store vast amounts of energy from renewable sources to help us meet peak demand, mitigate future energy crises and move away from carbon-emitting fuels.

Information Security Analysts, who are able to make cyberspace safer by preventing cyber-attacks, or by developing blockchain technologies that enable authenticated and transparent digital voting.

Software and Applications Developers and Analysts, who will, for example, enhance virtual reality (VR) for use in healthcare. Engineers are already developing VR healthcare systems, complete with treadmills, to help people with Parkinson’s improve mobility, and are exploring applications of VR that help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and stroke.

Innovation Professionals, with the knowledge to provide access to clean water in the developing world, for example, and improve water efficiency in developed countries.

This is Engineering Day

With an ambition to turn engineering from one of the most poorly understood, to one of the best understood and in-demand careers, the Royal Academy of Engineering is launching This is Engineering Day on the 6th November as part of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. This is Engineering Day is a new national awareness day to increase understanding of what an engineer is and to celebrate the roles that will contribute to shaping our futures.

Hayaatun Sillem, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “Engineering and technology play an incredible role in shaping the world around us and in addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, from providing a sustainable supply of food, water and clean energy, to advancing healthcare, and keeping us safe and secure. We know that young people increasingly want to tackle these issues and make a difference in the world, but unfortunately the lack of understanding around engineering is stopping them from exploring careers that will enable them to do this.”

This is Engineering Day is part of the This is Engineering campaign, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering to give more young people, from all backgrounds, the opportunity to take up engineering careers.

Read more about this:

More information on the campaign can be found at and @ThisisEng on Twitter.

World Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs Report 2018

Engineering UK 2018: The state of engineering