Opening young minds to careers in engineering

For a few years now we’ve been advocating STEM subjects for both study time and play. With engineering a critical part of the UK economy, luckily we’re not the only organisation pushing the message home that more inspiration is needed to convince young people to open up their minds to engineering careers.

Earlier this month, the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) announced a series of open days taking place across the country. On Friday 26th July 2019, sites spanning Scotland, Manchester, Doncaster, Peterborough, London and Kent to name just a few, will be opening their doors to adults and children to demonstrate what the world of engineering has to offer in the form of workshops, tours, challenges and question and answer sessions.

Alison Carr, Director of Governance and Policy at the IET explains, “It’s a chance for parents and children to look behind the scenes at places that you may not expect there’s any engineering - places like the National Theatre, Victoria & Albert museum, and some places where you might expect to see some engineering but you actually get to see some of the detail. Parents and children get to see why engineering is so important in these venues.”

Engineering a brighter future

The day has been designed to encourage parents to support their children in choosing careers in engineering and technology but could this be too little too late? In 2018 61% of businesses surveyed in the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey expressed a lack of confidence that there will be enough people available in the future with the necessary skills to fill their high-skilled job vacancies. Furthermore, the UK’s economy depends on these jobs being filled. With 25% of the UK’s total GDP generated by the engineering sector in 2015 (£420.5 billion) according to Engineering UK, a dwindling rate of engineering graduates doesn’t spell great tidings.

To remedy this outcome, we’re committed to supporting any organisation that’s pushing engineering careers as the way forward for the next generation. Although we believe it will take more than just a few companies - more likely the combined efforts of government, education, businesses and engineering enthusiasts alike - we want to highlight the amazing opportunities that are presenting themselves at the end of this month at a site near you in the hope that these will motivate some young minds to pursue a job in engineering.

We’ve listed some of the most fun below so hurry and get your families signed up - the spaces will fill fast:

 

Brighton Toy Museum

Brighton Toy Museum
Location: Brighton
Times: 10am-5pm
Booking: 01273 749 494

Description: One of the world’s greatest toy museums, it spans a set of Victorian cellars covering four thousand square feet. The day will include creating hovercraft using household items, an activity suitable for children aged between 7 and 11.

 

 

 

 

The National Museum of Computing

 

The National Museum of Computing
Location: Milton Keynes
Times: 1030am-5pm
Booking: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk

Description: The National Museum of Computing is home to the world’s largest collection of historic computers including the Turing-Welchman Bombe and Colossus of the 1940s through to the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The rise of personal computing and mobile computing exhibitions are also on display with the recent unveiling of an Engima cipher machine used in the Second World War making this a must-see day trip this summer.

Brunel Museum

Brunel Museum
Location: London
Times: 11am-1pm
Booking: Included with museum admission

Description: Telling the story of one of the world’s great engineering dynasties, the Brunel Museum includes a grand entrance hall where a young Brunel threw the world’s first underground concert party in 1827. What a raver! In the lower gallery there’s an exhibition about Brunel’s greatest ship, the SS Great Britain, which set the design standards for today’s modern shipping. Activities on the day will include bridge building using a range of materials including straws, wooden blocks, string, newspaper and card. The challenge will involve making a bridge that will span a gap of at least one metre between two low tables while leaving room for ships to pass underneath.

BBC Birmingham Tours

BBC Birmingham Tours
Location: Birmingham
Times: 11.00am-12pm or 2pm-3pm
Booking: http://blrm.io/EngineeringOpenHouseDayBBCBhamTour

Description: You or your child fancy yourself as the next newsreader on BBC News? Visitors will take part in a tour of the BBC Blue Room, BBC Broadcast Support Centre and Midlands Today News Studio and TV Production Gallery. Visitors will also get to chat to staff about engineering and technology careers at the BBC.

Southend Tech Festival

Southend Tech Festival
Location: Southend-on-Sea
Times: 10.30am-3pm
Booking: https://www.southendtech.co.uk/iet-engineering-open-house-day-2019

Description: Southend Tech Festival collaborates across various sectors and includes Raspberry Jams, hackathons, coding, makerspace and Smart City events. Attendees will learn about coding and digital making with the Raspberry Pi and Microbit, how to create music, digital animations and games, train an AI using machine learning and interface with sensors and electronics.

 

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium
Location: Northern Ireland
Times: 10am-4.30pm
Booking: First come, first served basis, no need to pre-book
Description: Research at Armagh ranges from the study of objects within the Solar System through to distant galaxies. Astronomers use ground based telescopes and satellites and high performance computing to simulate observations and compute models. The day will include a Rocket Workshop during which families will learn how to make a stable, aerodynamic rocket and then take it outside for launch. 

 

 

 

To see the full list of opportunities during the nationwide Engineering Open House Day, click here. And don’t forget to tweet us with your pictures from the events using #IETOpenDay.


The STEM of Gender Bias

We all know how to make small talk. Granted, the exact nature of the way we communicate might vary depending on formalities, but whether you’re at a wedding, family celebration or simply out for a night on the tiles, the same question will be asked of all of us at some point. We know it’s coming…

 

Who says that girls need to stick to a plan?
"What do you do for a living?"
"What’s your job?"
"Where do you work?"

Having recently landed my first proper job at an agency, I was eager to finally be able to say, “I work in PR.”  What I didn’t really think about was the inevitable follow up, “What kind?”

As soon as I explained that I work in the technical PR industry - working with clients that design products for all kinds of industries from water distribution to food manufacture - the look on my acquaintance’s face started to shift. In under five seconds, I’d gone from the most glamorous and interesting person in the room, to the girl who works in PR for sewerage systems.

I was warned by my Account Director that this might happen, who after decades in this sector has experienced the ‘job-off’ (my new term for this shaming occurrence) numerous times. Therefore, I was ready to explain how important the technology industries actually are, from the widely familiar telecommunications and mobile companies, right down to the power networks that distribute our electricity. To put it simply, without technology our daily lives would grind to a halt.

And, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m only suitable for a role in beauty or lifestyle PR...


I enjoy my job

At Armitage Communications I learn new facts every day such as how things work, what the future might look like if current trends continue and what needs to change in order for the UK to survive in the global market. Take the latest report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, for example.  It highlights the big six industries which are likely to have a large impact on the UK’s economy, but only if certain steps are taken to make the most of this significant opportunity.

The big six are New Power Networks, Space, Cyber Security, 3D Printing, Food Security and Robotics. All of these industries have a similar problem of needing more engineers with the right skill set. We have already blogged about how schools should teach lessons to prepare students for the technical roles of the future, so it is interesting that the IET has also highlighted this problem. Thankfully, we are starting to see signs of improvement with competitions such as the FIRST LEGO League (FLL®) taking place across the UK.

There’s still a long way to go, however, and another significant issue that the IET rightly emphasised was the need for diversity within the engineering workforce, especially in terms of gender. The Women’s Engineering Society states that only 7% of the engineering workforce are female, and we believe that one reason behind this is our heavily gender-biased toy industry. Kira Cochrane of The Guardian aptly describes  it as ‘rigid spheres of pink and blue’.

The square root of sex segregation

 

Colour continues to be used to differentiate gender

Toys that are marketed to little girls include baby dolls, Barbie, My Little Pony, tea sets and princess dresses and not much else, preparing them for a life of domesticity, motherhood and a preoccupation with appearance. This is the 21st century though and women have a choice – they can work, be mums, go to university, all at the same time if they so desire. They can also choose to become engineers, scientists or technology specialists.

But toys don’t seem to encourage this, and when you consider that gender identity occurs between the ages of around three and five years old, it would seem that a change in this market is called for - to rectify the long-lasting impression that girls should be girls, and boys should be boys. Whatever that means.

The aforementioned Lego group might be encouraging young children to solve real world problems with the help of technology, but their recent plight to sell more Lego to girls in the form of Lego Friends has been the crutch of many jokes about gender bias in the media. The Heartlake Hair Salon, Puppy Training and Bunny and Babies sets all scream gender stereotyping, and a disregard of Lego instructions resulting in a robot is one way to express how little girls actually want to play with female astronaut, pirate and scientist pieces. Girls don’t need pink to want to build.

It’s refreshing then to hear about movements such as ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ and games being sold such as Goldieblox and Roominate. These both involve construction and the development of STEM skills through hands-on problem solving and are aimed primarily at girls. Both use a wide range of colours in their products and, in the words of Goldieblox CEO Debbie Sterling, ‘aim to disrupt the pink aisle.’

A working example

In fact, at Armitage Communications, a lot of what we do revolves around the technology sector. With such gender-biased attitudes common, you may be surprised to learn that there are three female staff engaged in the daily production of technical and engineering-focused materials for our clients. Whether you’re a man or a woman, tech is a graspable subject. Plenty more would realise this if the education sector and toy companies alike banded together to encourage STEM skills, regardless of whether children are called Barbie or Ken.

Do you have what it takes to work in tech PR?

Calling all tech-minded ladies and gentlemen. We are currently looking for a Junior Account Executive with a talent for creative writing and a natural curiosity for learning and explaining how things work.

If this sounds like you then email claire.shore@armitage-comms.co.uk and attach your C.V along with 200 words about how you’d convince someone who just gave you the 'job-off' that Tech PR is actually a fascinating, mentally-stimulating and up-to-the minute industry.

Image 1 Credit: 'It was supposed to be a juice bar' by fickle
Image 2 Credit: 'Pink & blue lego' by Janet McKnight