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Want to save the planet or save a life? Become an engineer

With ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’ now nearing the end, we take a look at what the week is all about and what we can do to help attract generation Z into the engineering sectors.

Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is the brainchild of the Tomorrow’s Engineers programme - an initiative led by the engineering community, ‘to provide a platform for employers to work effectively with schools to inspire more young people to consider a careers in engineering.’ This annual event is now in its fifth successful year, which in 2017 takes place from 6th-10 November.

Aimed at growing young people’s interest in all fields of engineering, Tomorrow's Engineers Week is designed to help address the fact that 186,000 people with engineering skills will be needed annually through to 2024. This year’s event is showcasing the many ways in which engineers are on a mission to make the world a better place – a subject that resonates deeply with the next generation coming through the education system - so much so that research by Dream Career (commissioned for the week) has shown:

‘90% of 9-18 year olds want a career that tackles social issues with almost half wanting to help animals (47%), two-fifths want to save peoples lives (37%) and a third want to help tackle homelessness (29%).

While two-thirds (65%) of Generation Z claim money is the most important thing to look for in a career, 43% want to be part of something to be proud of and 37% want a career that offers excitement.

Among the 9-18 year olds questioned by researchers only a few (10%) were actively considering a career in engineering but two-thirds (67%) would consider a career in engineering if it allowed them to help the world, the environment or save peoples’ lives.’

So it seems that more young people would consider taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and look long term for a career in a engineering discipline, if they knew more about the wider social, health and environmental impacts their jobs could have.

At the moment the plumbing sector has no shortage of new recruits, but it does have a shortage of highly skilled engineers. When asking what we can do to encourage those highly motivated individuals to join the industry (and take their engineering prowess to the very top), we need to look further than the job spec on offer, we need to look at the role’s ability to make the world a better place.

At the CIPHE we have long championed the plumbing engineer as the protector of the public health – it is no exaggeration to say that a number of deadly diseases are kept at bay thanks to the quality of water and sanitation systems we enjoy in this country today. Those working within the heating sectors are well aware of the deadly implications that unqualified ‘installers’ and inept workmanship can bring. When it comes to sustainable technology, the innovations that are happening around water and energy conservation are not only staggering, but have a substantial impact on the environment and the lowering of our carbon footprint.

The plumbing and heating industry has a massive role to play in protecting people’s health and wellbeing along with the environment every single day. However, it seems that we’ve not been particularly good at presenting these issues to the generations coming through. Maybe if we start to focus a little more on the wider impacts a role in the plumbing and heating sector can bring, we may just attract minds that are hungry to be a part of innovative solutions to some of the biggest health and environmental problems we face today.

Find out more about Tomorrow’s Engineers Week at http://www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/tomorrows-engineers-week-2017/