My TeenTech Adventure!

Posted on 01/09/2017 by IED

TeenTech awards: a vital means of raising awareness of the wonderful careers to be had in engineering

TeenTech is the organisation co-founded in 2008 by current IED President Maggie Philbin to “help young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries, no matter what their gender or social background”. The TeenTech awards http://www.teentech.com/teentech-awards were established in 2012/13 to “look at problems large and small to see if they can find a better way of doing things”.

I was delighted to be invited to become a judge at this year’s awards, in which over 2,000 students participated, with 57% of entries being from girls.I was judging the Manufacturing category for 11-16 year olds where the criteria were quality of prototype, understanding of materials and manufacturing processes and costing/target market. Initial judging was conducted online, with the finalists attending the Royal Society in London on 26 June where myself and my two co-judges were able to view the work and speak with the participants.

Talking to the students was an enlightening and heartening experience; they oozed enthusiasm and creativity, seeing the world with different eyes, and thus possibilities, to myself and my co-judges. Many of them also had an impressive understanding of materials, costing and manufacturing processes.

Initiatives such as the TeenTech Awards are very important for organisations like the IED, as well as to the wider engineering design sector in terms of raising awareness and understanding of what the various sectors of STEM actually offer. For many young people, their parents and even their school teachers, STEM subjects – and engineering, in particular – are unfamiliar and not easily understood when it comes to what careers might be on offer. TeenTech suggests 43% of young people gain careers advice from parents and a further 16% from school, so raising understanding of STEM is vital.

These figures broadly agree with some of my own research data that indicates 53% of engineering apprentices in my local FE College gained their careers advice from parents. However, a high percentage of those parents, or near relations, were already associated with the engineering profession.For students without this link, the likelihood of them entering engineering as apprentices or via any other route is much reduced – unless, of course, they have the opportunity to take part in initiatives such as those run by TeenTech.

If you’d like to learn more about TeenTech, go to www.teentech.com. TeenTech is particularly powerful in encouraging girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider careers in construction, applied sciences, technology and engineering: something that may just help with the skills shortage.

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