National Centre has identified a downward trend in the female uptake of engineering education

National Centre has identified a downward trend in the female uptake of engineering education

This trend is apparent in the annual dashboard of statistics published by NCUB as part of Talent 2030, an ambitious campaign to bring female talent into the engineering and manufacturing industries.

Talent 2030 runs a unique tracking exercise to monitor the number of female students entering GCSE and A-Level Physics, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate technology studies. The dashboard contains targets to improve these numbers between 2012 and 2030.

We are not on track to achieve these targets. According to the 2015 dashboard the proportion of young women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012. Though the percentage of female postgraduate qualifiers has increased, this is largely due to international students. In sharp contrast the proportion of those qualifying in undergraduate Engineering and Technology courses has actually dropped from 14% to 13.7%. And despite a spate of investment, and many initiatives in recent years, only 9% of qualified engineers are women.

If we continue at this current rate of progress, NCUB has projected that the Talent 2030 targets will be missed by 7,000 A-Level students and 10,000 undergraduate engineers and Technologists. But if we begin to act now, we can get back on track to achieve the 2030 targets and improve the future of female employment and the engineering sector as a whole.

NCUB says that to stay on track for 2030, we need to see robust intervention between 2015 and 2020. Otherwise the targets will get harder to reach every year. If we miss them, industry will not get the talented female engineers and technologists that it needs. Failure would damage the gender balance of industry, and engineering as a whole.

As one way of tackling this problem, NCUB runs the Talent 2030 National Engineering Competition for Girls, which was launched for the third year on 28 September. To encourage talented female students to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing, the competition asks them to pit their creativity and innovation against others, and use engineering to solve a twenty-first century problem. It is open for entries until 6pm on 18 December. Winners are awarded £1000 and matched with an inspiring female engineering mentor, while runners-up win a £100 prize. All finalists are invited to showcase their entries at the Big Bang Fair at

Birmingham NEC in March 2016, where there is a £200 prize for the best exhibition of an idea.

NCUB CEO Dr David Docherty spoke about the need for the competition:

“Industry is crying out for the great talent that can be provided by young women, but they aren’t taking up the challenge in big enough numbers. The lack of women taking A-levels and degrees in technology and engineering could spell disaster for the competitiveness of the industry, and if we want to see any improvement by 2030 we need to act now, not later. That’s why it has been impressive to see so much enthusiasm for this year’s Talent 2030 competition as it launched. If we can inspire these girls now, we can address the problem head on so that the present 2030 projections never become reality.”

Commenting on the dashboard statistics Professor Dame Julia King, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said

“It is very disappointing to see the stagnation and decline at certain levels on the dashboard over the past four years. We know as a country that we cannot afford to let this continue, and this is made clearer still by these NCUB projections for 2030. Action is needed now to safeguard the future of engineering-related industries in the UK and of the individual young women with the talent to work within them.

“The best way to tackle this is to ensure we communicate to girls that they are just as capable as their male classmates at physics and maths, and that these subjects lead to exciting, well pad careers. But just as importantly, we must encourage parents and teachers to believe in the talent of these young women, and their ability to succeed in what may have been seen as ‘male’ careers – and to encourage their dreams beyond all else.”

Abbie Hutty, Spacecraft Structures Engineer, IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2014, added:

“Whilst it is encouraging that the overall trend for girls taking GCSE physics over the surveyed years is increasing, it is disappointing to not see this translate at A-level. Female representation in the profession is slowly increasing, but is still woefully low by comparison to other countries, proving that the problem we are dealing with in the UK is a cultural one.

"To have any impact on these figures we have to tackle the root of the problem. We need to demonstrate to girls and the broader society that engineering is a well-paid and secure job prospect that allows you to have a positive impact on the world is equally rewarding and fulfilling for girls and for boys!”

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