National Grid report highlights engineering as “an invisible industry” that doesn’t appeal to young people

  • Research shows engineering is not on the radar of young people -parents and teachers have negative perceptions of engineering
  • Future skills shortage will have a damaging impact on the transition to a low carbon economy
  • New National Grid initiatives launched to inspire young people to consider an engineering career and change current perceptions

Engineering has become “an invisible industry” which is undervalued and undermined by outdated stereotypes, according to new research from National Grid.

The “Engineering Our Future” report was commissioned to look at the attitudes towards engineering among young people, parents and teachers. More than 1,300 individual interviews with young people aged 14-19, and additional in depth focus groups were conducted across the UK. This revealed disturbingly low levels of awareness and interest, and a picture of confusion about the role of engineering, with the majority of young people and parents regarding it as dirty and menial work.

Highlights of the findings include:

  • Confusion about the role of engineers, with 6 out of 10 young people not able to name a recent engineering achievement
  • Young people, parents and teachers have “blue collar” images of men in overalls who fix things
  • Teachers and parents think engineering is a career for those who are “less academic”
  • Prejudice and stereotypes stem from this basic preconception
  • Girls are ten times less likely to say they would pursue a career in engineering
  • Low levels of appreciation for engineers’ contribution to society, compared to other professions such as doctors, teachers and the police force.

Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid said:

“This report makes extremely worrying reading. National Grid sits at the heart of the challenges of climate change, security of supply and affordability of energy in the UK. We need lots of very clever people who can make things happen and think outside the box to create a different world in the future.

“We know from our own workforce planning that nearly 1,000 new roles are needed by 2020. We need to inspire today’s youth and help them to see how exciting and interesting a career in engineering can be”.

With the UK on the cusp of an energy revolution, it is essential that the industry has a pipeline of talent coming through in the long term to help support the transition to a low carbon economy, to meet the UK Government targets of 80 per cent emissions reduction by 2050, and 15 per cent renewable energy sources by 2020.

Lord Browne of Madingley, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

"The Academy’s mission is to move engineering closer to the centre of society. Engineering skills are increasingly vital to modern life as they underpin our access to energy, water, food and healthcare. Engineering will also be crucial in solving the growing problems of energy sustainability and climate change. This report highlights the importance of attracting more people to the profession at a time when engineering creativity is most needed to meet the grand challenges facing society."

In light of the report findings, National Grid has reviewed its education and skills programme. Among the solutions which are outlined in the report are:

  • School Power – a new scheme whereby National Grid volunteers will go into primary schools with a programme of activities to stimulate interest in how energy, forces and materials work. The programme will also be available for teachers and others to use online
  • Work Experience - together with the Royal Academy of Engineering, National Grid is developing a blue print for what meaningful work experience should look like as well as developing a mentoring and coaching programme aimed at teachers and careers advisors
  • New pilot programme in North-West England to help disadvantaged young people.

National Grid Chief Executive, Steve Holliday, concludes:

“National Grid is investing in a long-term strategy to raise the aspiration levels of young people, their parents and teachers and encourage a career in engineering.

“The energy industry is changing and it’s vital we have the right people to deliver the new technologies required for the future. But to do this, we must inspire and engage tomorrow’s engineers today”.

Notes for editors

  1. National Grid

    National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE:NGG) is an international electricity and gas company and one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world.

    National Grid owns the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales and operates the system across Great Britain. It also owns and operates the high pressure gas transmission system in Britain and its distribution business delivers gas to 11 million homes and businesses. National Grid also has a number of related businesses such as LNG importation and storage, land remediation and metering.

    In the US, National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). National Grid also owns over 4,000 megawatts of contracted electricity generation that provides power to over one million LIPA customers. It is also the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern U.S., serving approximately 3.4 million customers in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

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