Only 3% of girls in mainstream schools would consider a career in engineering

By Anita Jaynes on 28 May, 2014

Girls at English schools think boys have a much better chance of getting jobs in engineering with just 43% saying they have the same opportunities in the industry. As a result, just 3% would consider a career in engineering.

At university technical colleges (UTCs) however, the picture is different. Nearly two thirds (65%) of girls believe they have the same job opportunities as boys in engineering. This trend continues in other male dominated sectors, including technology where three quarters (75%) of girls at UTCs believe they have the same job chances. In science the figure is higher still, at 83%.

The findings are part of two surveys commissioned by Baker Dearing Educational Trust, of 14-18 year old students at university technical colleges and other mainstream schools.

The surveys also show a worrying difference in how confident girls feel about getting a job when they leave education. 90% of girls at UTCs felt confident they could get a job compared to just 76% at other mainstream schools. What’s more, almost double the number of girls attending UTCs (83%) felt they had gained valuable practical skills compared to just 49% at other mainstream schools.

Lord Baker, chair of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity behind UTCs, said: “The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. We have to challenge out-dated ideas that careers in engineering, science and technology are more suitable for boys than girls. Girls at university technical colleges are leading the way, demonstrating the kind of talent, commitment and interest in these subjects that this country so desperately needs. It’s vital that this message is championed in other schools as well.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK economy will require 830,000 scientists, engineers and technologists by 2020. Attracting girls as well as boys to study for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at school is crucial to meet these skills requirements.

Philip Greenish CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The UK needs many more people with skills in innovation, creativity and enterprise – skills that are fundamental to engineering and key to the UK’s competitive edge. University Technical Colleges are superbly positioned to reach out to young people from all backgrounds, male and female, and to bring to life the wonderful opportunities available from a career in engineering.”

Angela Barker-Dench, Principle of UTC Swindon, commented: “Like other UTC’s; Swindon will ensure all its students are employment ready and full of confidence whatever their gender. UTC Swindon is at the heart of its local industry, supported by 68 partners with sponsorship from Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd and Oxford Brookes University; our students will study GCSE’s and A-levels along with vocational Engineering qualifications. The icing on the cake for our students will be real live projects with industry along with work experience at year 10 through to year 13. UTC Swindon’s graduates will be well placed for employment, further training or university.”

UTCs are working with organisations including the WISE Campaign to challenge stereotypes and communicate to parents and girls the diverse employment opportunities and financial rewards these careers can offer.

UTCs are specialist technical schools where employers are heavily involved in the curriculum, effectively training the next generation of Britain’s scientists, engineers and – technicians. 14-18 year olds study for GCSEs and A-Levels alongside specialist technical qualifications to give them a broad academic grounding as well as important practical skills and real life experience of work. 17 UTCs are open and more will open in September across England.