Lyons O'Neill

How can the engineering sector appeal to young people?

Last week’s GCSE results day announcements got us thinking about the future of engineering. In recent years, the sector has embraced the proliferating use of digital technology as a more efficient way of working. With the chance to appeal to the first generation of true digital natives, it is imperative that the sector understands the importance of knowing how to attract young engineers. 

Recognising and cultivating an early interest in engineering is key. Whilst an interest in science is important, it’s often the variety of specialisms that go beyond the traditional biology, physics and maths disciplines that attract young people to further study. 

We recently spoke to our Head of Civil Engineering Niall Greenan to chat about what it was that first drew him to the profession. He said, “I really enjoyed physics at school, especially fluid mechanics & water hydraulics. The challenge of solving complex problems was always the attraction to pursuing a career in this specialist area of Civil Engineering.” 

Choosing one engineering pathway can be daunting, but also offers the opportunity to try new things. Niall advises getting as much experience in different disciplines of engineering early in your career, as this will become invaluable later down the line when making key decisions in a multi-disciplinary environment. So, whilst there are various disciplines of engineering for young people to get their heads around, but there’s no pressure to commit to just one forever. 

Additionally, with new developments in technology, we’re likely to see new pathways emerging, for which the latest cohort of school leavers are perfect for. For example, building information modelling (BIM) has disrupted the engineering and construction sector in offering a visual aid when communicating designs with clients and team members. However, there are plenty of projects which offer a chance to cover many disciplines including civil, structural, environmental, geotechnical, highways, mechanical, electrical and utilities. 

At Lyons O’Neill, we try to demonstrate in our work that engineering is everywhere. Our Arts & Community projects in particular have demonstrated the multifaceted nature of engineering in practice. Our work at Peckham’s Bold Tendencies as helped debunk one of the most resilient myths around engineering: that it isn’t for creatives. Rather, a creative mind if often necessary to overcome some of the most complex challenges. Not to mention, the spectacular art installations one could create through clever engineering. 

Overall, the modern world faces a variety of evolving challenges which could do with a fresh set of eyes and hands. For enthusiastic, inquisitive students, engineering offers the perfect career pathway to apply to real world problems like climate change, flooding and pollution. By reaching out and demonstrating the dynamism of modern engineering, the sector has the opportunity to benefit from the very best of the digital natives.