‘Just 16% of female respondents surveyed by PwC report they’ve had a career in technology suggested to them.’

To wrap up Venturefest, Hillary Leevers, Chief Executive of Engineering UK presented on the importance of developing a more productive, competent and diverse technology workforce.

The UK tech sector is worth £180bn (up by £10bn since 2017) and generates an estimated 2.3 million jobs. It is imperative that we prepare a skilled workforce that can continue to enable the UK to benefit from this sizeable opportunity for economic growth.

EngineeringUK works in partnership with the engineering community to inspire tomorrow’s engineers and grow the talent pool. To achieve this, they host events and programmes that aim to inform young people of the full range of academic and vocational pathways to modern engineering and exciting career opportunities. Throughout her speech, Hillary actively advocates for a more diverse workforce in the tech industry by creating a conducive academic and working environment inclusive of under-represented and low socioeconomic groups among the youth.

‘Just 16% of female respondents surveyed by PwC report they’ve had a career in technology suggested to them.’

‘Just 1 in 10 engineering and technology undergraduates come from the most disadvantaged 5thof the population.’

 

These shocking statistics are a driving force behind Hilary’s passion for creating change in the current status quo of the engineering sector. She stressed that it is important to encourage equal opportunities and to develop an inclusive labour force as it promotes innovation, creativity, productivity, and resilience. Most importantly, it helps fill skills shortages within the engineering sector in terms of the volume of competent candidates and helps to break the vicious intergenerational poverty trap among the UK’s most vulnerable.

However, there are significant challenges that prevent us from reaching these goals. Among them, the limited exposure of young people to STEM careers. A recent report indicated that only 33% of 11 to 14-year olds said they knew almost nothing or only a little about what people in the engineering and tech sectors do. They prescribe to the stereotype that engineers only perform hands-on tasks that are dirty and physically difficult. Besides that, the youth have limited access to inspirational key figures in the modern engineering sector to empower them with reliable career advice. Information on successful pathways and initiatives into engineering also lack advertising. Hence, the youth are ill-informed in ways to kickstart their adult careers. It is imperative that we innovate in information technology to improve the collection of diversity data for engineering industries.

Before ending her presentation, Hillary encouraged the audience of businessfolk and entrepreneurs in the tech industry to talk about what they do, be advocates of the new generation of engineering and encourage the youth to participate in implementing modernisation. Next, she turned to the youth and the students in the room, and encouraged them to be inquisitive and be brave enough to ask about the opportunities and advice available for them to achieve their full potential.

(Author: Hana Chua, University of Warwick. Co-Author: Iain Mansell, IAWM)