Findings of the first ever nationwide report into public attitudes and perceptions towards engineers and engineering, launched today, revealed that 2 in 3 young people know very little about engineering and almost 3 in 4 don’t understand what engineers actually do. This could have serious implications if it affects their future career choice as the UK’s output of engineers is already stagnating.

“Misconceptions and misunderstanding of engineers and engineering are arguably the key fundamental cause of difficulties in recruiting young people to train, study for and develop their careers in the engineering field,” John Morton, the ETB’s Chief Executive, said.

“We are using this research as a benchmark to help us understand perceptions and identify ways in which we can improve understanding and undertake further work to promote opportunities in the profession. With chances to get involved in life changing projects ranging from developing the Thames Barrier or the Olympic Village to creating bio fuels and being at the forefront of latest technology such as digital radio, there’s never been a better time to get involved in engineering. We need to find more ways in which we can get this message across and raise the profile of the sector” he continued.

“This is the first real data we have ever gathered of public attitudes to engineering and it’s given us a very clear message that we need to do more to demonstrate our role in society,” said Dr Scott Steedman, Vice President of The Royal Academy of Engineering. “If Government is to achieve its vision of the knowledge economy it’s vital that we enthuse young people. We need to be more joined up across the profession, our campaigns need to be much more visible and we personally need to be more outspoken about the value we bring and the contribution we make both to improving people’s lives and to the economy.”

The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) and The Royal Academy of Engineering jointly commissioned BMRB Social Research and BMRB Stakeholder to conduct research (1)exploring public attitudes to, and perceptions of, engineering and engineers.

1. The research consisted of a quantitative survey to a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+, along with a boost sample of young adults aged 16-19 years and qualitative research workshops. These provide a baseline measure of public knowledge and understanding which can be used across the engineering community to inform action plans to build engagement.

Although engineers were generally respected and rated well compared with lawyers and the medical profession amongst older people, the use of the term “engineering” to describe activities as diverse as financial engineering and car repairing, meant that many younger people were confused about what engineers actually do. This led younger people to score engineers the lowest for their participation on resolving major world issues such as climate change or vaccine development.

Positive attitudes amongst all age groups, towards engineering were based on a belief that engineers are responsible for providing many of the things people rely upon in their everyday lives such as transport, electricity and buildings. Encouragingly, the survey found that increased information about engineering resulted in increasingly positive attitudes due to a greater awareness of its true nature, diversity and impact on contemporary society. 88% of young people and 92% of all age groups believed that engineering makes a good contribution to society.

Download: Public Attitudes to, and Perceptions of, Engineering and Engineers 2007 (1.09 MB)

Contact Lesley Paterson - Head of Public Engagement

Notes for editors

  1. The ETB

    The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) promotes the essential role of science, engineering and technology in society. The ETB partners business and industry, Government and the wider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) community.

    The ETB is committed to working with our partners to ensure that young people are aware of the rewards and opportunities that a career in engineering brings. scenta.co.uk is the most significant gateway to inspirational careers information about the broadest range of engineering and technology related careers, and supported by our network of over 800 Role Models from all disciplines and experience levels. We produce ‘enginuity’ and enginuity.org.uk in partnership with SEMTA, a comprehensive pack of careers-related materials distributed annually to every secondary school and we are raising the profile of engineering events in National Science and Engineering Week with the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA).

    Contact: Shirley-Ann Hickman, ETB Account Manager on 020 8974 7231
  2. The Royal Academy of Engineering

    Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the UK. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

    The Royal Academy of Engineering is heavily involved with the new Engineering Diploma for 14-19 year olds, which from next year will bring an exciting new curriculum and new ways of working into schools and aims to diversify the engineering workforce. It also runs a Public Engagement Grants ProgrammeIngenious funding projects that enable engineers to debate with the public on engineering and its impact on society.
  3. BMRB (British Market Research Bureau)

    BMRB provides high quality research solutions in the key areas highlighted on the left. We offer a range of approaches including bespoke proprietary research and consultancy, syndicated data and cost-effective omnibus research. BMRB is one of the largest and best resourced agencies in Europe and is part of the KMR Group, a global research information and software group.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton, Communications Manager