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Engineering beats law and finance as parental job choice for their kids, but medicine is out in front as the best career choice

02 October 2014


Medicine and associated professions top the list of parental career choices for their children (18 per cent), while a career in finance is named by far fewer (3 per cent). Administration comes at the bottom of the list (1 per cent). These are the findings of a survey of parents of 11-16 year olds commissioned by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to discover to what extent parents’ attitudes to engineering careers are contributing to the engineering skills shortage in the UK.

Only 7 per cent of parents who expressed a preferred career choice for their child chose engineering, beating law (4 per cent) and finance, but lagging behind teaching (10 per cent) and arts & media (11 per cent).

The IET believes that engineers need to work harder to make engineering appealing to the next generation – and their parents – and to convince them that engineering is a worthwhile and motivating career choice. More encouraging is that 14 per cent of parents said they thought a career in science and technology would be best for their child, suggesting that technology is the area of engineering that has most appeal for parents.

When asked the reasons for their choice of career, the top reason given by parents was “I think they would enjoy it” (50 per cent), followed by “I think they would be good at it” (38 per cent) and “I think it would be interesting” (28 per cent). Pay and job stability were lower down the list at 21 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. “Because I work in that industry” was bottom of the list at only 4 per cent.

Only 36 per cent of parents cited “I think there are good job opportunities” or “I think there are good career opportunities” as their reason, suggesting that the fact that the engineering sector will need 87,000 engineers each year over the next decade is unlikely to be a major motivating force for parents.

William Webb, who becomes IET President today, says: “It’s great to see that parents are choosing engineering as a career for their children above traditionally popular careers such as law and finance. But given the engineering skills shortage we face in the UK, we still need to do more to convince parents that engineering is a creative, rewarding and diverse career for their child.

“We mustn’t underestimate the important role mums and dads play in influencing their children’s career choice – and they are a vital target audience if we want to inspire more young people to take up engineering-related subjects at school and college – and then go on to become engineers.

“It’s interesting to see that the biggest driving force for their choice of career for half of the parents was potential job satisfaction.  Engineers are often passionate about their jobs so this is something we need to work harder to communicate to young people and their parents.

“Government, employers and professional institutions are all coming together to encourage more young people to study science and engineering subjects at school – so this research is a timely reminder that we must make sure parents are at the heart of our campaign.”

Media enquiries to:

Katie Stanton
Communications Executive

Tel: +44(0)1438 765608
Mob: +44(0)7738 713867
Email: kstanton@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with nearly 160,000 members in 127 countries. It is also the most multidisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.