Physicist professor Brian Cox OBE backs a new campaign from the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) to promote engineering to young people, stating that British engineers deserve the same ‘rock star’ kudos they enjoy in California.
The call coincides with the start of the Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, and aims to convince British engineers and scientists to stop being shy about what they do.
Brian Cox said: “In California the universities and big-name companies have been incredibly successful in building up a culture that celebrates engineers who have great ideas, come up with new inventions and change things for the better.
“Ironically, we used to be pretty adept at this too. Back in the 19th Century, Michael Faraday, the British chemist and physicist whose work led directly to the modern electric motor, generator and transformer, and Humphrey Davy, the Cornish chemist and inventor who discovered calcium, potassium and sodium, were well known for their world acclaimed lectures at the Royal Institution.
“But since then we seem to have grown more reticent about being evangelists for science and engineering.
“British engineers – and scientists – sometimes seem to see shouting about what we’re doing as a bit vulgar and not terribly British – instead of recognising that they need to tell people that we are making the world a better place through science and engineering.”
The IET’s first female president in its 144-year history, Naomi Climer, agrees and wants to tackle the UK’s engineering image problem, which is widely perceived as the reason why low numbers of young people are going into engineering.
Climer’s previous role working for Sony in California meant that she has first hand experience of the two culture gaps, and she wants to encourage engineers and scientists to aspire to the same heights.
She said: “It’s great that Brian is supporting our campaign – and I hope that other British engineers and scientists will do the same. If we want to attract a new generation of engineers who can really deliver on the UK’s engineering and technology potential, making engineering a career that is seen as cool, exciting and ‘the place to be’ is absolutely essential.”
“The UK may not be the birthplace of the likes of Google and SpaceX, but we do have an amazing heritage of technology innovation – and we have every chance of punching above our weight in the future if we can continue to play on our classic British strengths of coming up with new ideas, tackling problems in new ways and having highly trained and talented engineers with a world class reputation.
“Now we just need to get better at making the British public – and particularly young people – more aware of what we do and how influential it is on all their lives.”
According to EngineeringUK’s 2016 The State of Engineering report, the UK will need 182,000 people with engineering skills each year to 2022.