An interesting project caught our eye here at DJHC this week: Bedtime Stories for Very Young Engineers. Taking place in London next week, this event will promote the idea that we should inspire children as young as possible to become engineers. The organisers propose that this could be achieved by replacing the usual bedtime tales of dinosaurs and princesses with stories about problem solvers and inventors.
With this seed planted young, it’s hoped that we can get more children into STEM subjects in school, and on to improving and maintaining the human-made world around us. But why does this project come at such an important time? And why encourage children so young to dream of becoming engineers?
The reason is that, currently, there is a worryingly large shortage of engineers nationally. This shortfall is so severe that industry professionals, bodies and celebrities felt compelled to publish an open letter to the Prime Minister.
An urgent skills shortage in engineering
Published at the end of last year, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) joined forces with various public figures to urge the UK Government to address the nation’s engineering skills shortage. They argued that this is more crucial than ever as the climate crisis compels the government to meet its COP26 pledges.
That said, the skills gap in STEM is not a new phenomenon. Over the past 15 years, the IET has insisted that there are serious challenges ahead. With a shortfall of over 170,000 workers, which translates to an average of 10 unfilled roles per business, the time is now to encourage more young people into STEM subjects. They’ll be the innovators of the future, and ultimately, those who will help us tackle climate change – not to mention the shocking £1.5 billion per year this shortfall costs the UK economy.
The open letter urges ministers to work with industry leaders to develop practical support for teachers to promote engineering to our youngest children and highlight the profession in their existing STEM subjects. Professor Danielle George, a leader on the campaign, noted that, “to ‘build back better’ and fully embrace the ‘green industrial revolution’ promised by the government it is essential to start with solid foundations.”
Children will engineer our future
In essence, Professor George’s statement implores us to promote an appreciation and understanding of the opportunities engineering presents to the very youngest children. As a society we need keen, diverse minds to solve the challenges that lie ahead in regard to climate change, the economy, and the current government’s promise to “Build Back Better” after the COVID-19 crisis.
Whether this be through bedtime stories, inspiring examples, or involving them in practical projects, promoting STEM skills to children is of utmost importance. Perhaps another opportunity is National Numeracy Day, which is coming up on the 18th, which aims to help build children’s confidence and skills in mathematics. By nurturing their curiosity about making the world a better place, we can help our children engineer our future.