Press release

School children call for virtual work experience as education cuts bite

15 May 2017

Virtual or online work experience opportunities for school children, which many are currently not getting as Government education cuts take hold, could help them gain valuable insight into the world of work.

School children attending the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Junior Board have highlighted the lack of supported work experience schemes, which have been cut as school budgets are stretched. The young people suggested virtual or online work experience could be a substitute, featuring a day in the life of engineers to give school children an opportunity to see for themselves the practical skills they will need for the world of work.

The IET Junior Board, made up of school children and IET Trustees, meets annually and was set up to hear from ‘the engineers of the future’ how to attract more young people into engineering careers. With fewer children studying engineering-related subjects and pursuing careers in engineering, the IET is working more closely with young people to understand how best to address the UK’s current engineering and skills shortage.

Eight children aged 11 to 18 took part in the board meeting, all with a passionate interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Each child brought a selection of ideas with them to open up the discussion to fresh, critical thinking, and a modern outlook.

Other ideas discussed at the IET Junior Board included:

  • Taster events for young people, such as the IET’s Engineering Open House Day (taking place on July 28) or school STEM clubs – around the UK
  • Engineering-themed video games and apps
  • Teaching creative subjects like Design & Technology from an earlier age (including at Primary School)
  • Featuring engineers in mainstream children’s TV programmes e.g. Paw Patrol
  • A ‘STEM Teacher of the Year’ programme to encourage more teachers to champion engineering career to their students

The IET Junior Board meeting took place at the IET’s Savoy Place headquarters in London, and also involved eight Trustees, as well as IET President Jeremy Watson CBE and IET Chief Executive Nigel Fine.

Welcoming the suggestions brought to the table from its group of enthusiastic junior ‘consultants’, the IET is calling on other historical STEM institutions to follow suit, and encourage fresh thinking from young people to help modernise and transform the industry – and sustain its economic prospects.

18-year-old Floriane Fidegnon, said: “Cuts to education are crippling the resources that schools have. Competitions, study days and trips to museums are things that have a huge impact on young people and getting them into engineering. If they don't have access to these things, they're less likely to consider engineering as a career. With the shortage of STEM graduates costing the UK millions, it has never been more crucial to recruit potential. This starts in school and needs the support of the government.”

14-year-old Vivika Martini said: “This has been an amazing experience and unique opportunity to share thoughts with like-minded people. I think that the ideas discussed have huge potential to make engineering more widespread, accessible and appealing to the younger generation.”

Jeremy Watson CBE, IET President, said: “We launched our Junior Board initiative last year as part of our Engineer a Better World campaign, which promotes engineering careers to young people and their parents. The response we got from the young people involved was invaluable and their ideas were fantastic. We took note and have since worked with a range of engineers to produce YouTube videos, and provide monthly coding workshops to kids and their parents. 

“We were delighted to welcome a new set of school children to our Junior Board last week to gain fresh and valuable insight into how we can inspire their generation to become engineers.

“There are all kinds of initiatives going on to address the engineering skills challenge, but we believe that talking and listening to young people themselves is crucial if we want to truly challenge outdated perceptions of engineering, and attract more children into engineering in the future.”

Notes to editors:

Please contact Rebecca Gillick with any media enquiries