Lack of Understanding Fuels Skills Gap

Two in three UK parents lack knowledge to encourage their children into skilled careers, says The Big Bang.

Medicine, science and engineering have topped a poll of the careers parents dream their sons and daughters will follow. Yet, two thirds (68%) of UK parents are holding back from encouraging their children to consider these careers because of their own lack of knowledge about these fields, new research reveals. This has strong implications for the country’s future economic growth. 

In a study of 3,000 UK parents with children aged 4-17 by The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, a third (31%) say they have no idea about the jobs available in these areas, and one in five (19%) find science and engineering too difficult to comprehend.

The research further highlights a gender divide with a quarter of parents deeming science as a career most suited to boys, with even more (36%) regarding engineering as mans work.  A further one in ten (10%) still label scientists and engineers as being ‘geeks’ and the same number of parents would prefer their children followed the TV talent route, attracted by the instant fame and bright lights of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

In response to the findings, The Big Bang warns that this gap in knowledge, which is stopping parents from encouraging their children into highly skilled jobs could have an overwhelming impact on young people’s aspirations and the future state of the economy.

Plugging the skills gap is already a challenge, with almost half of UK employers (45%) having difficulty recruiting people with science, technology, engineering and maths* skills, which could hinder growth in critical areas**.

Professor Brian Cox, spokesperson and supporter of The Big Bang, said: “With science and engineering ranking so highly on parents ‘most wanted’ careers list, it is clear they have high hopes for their children. But the research suggests that they need to feel more equipped to help their kids make career decisions. Without this encouragement from parents, we could see the STEM skills gap widen which poses a risk to our country’s competitive edge.

“The Big Bang exists to give young people and their parents a better understanding of how just fun and inspiring science and engineering can be. You can find out for yourself by visiting The Big Bang this March. It’s free to attend, and the ideal place to find out about the exciting career options out there.”

The Big Bang takes place at ICC London ExCeL from 10-12 March 2011. Find out more by visiting

The research further reveals….

Parents are put off by university
• 62% of parents believe the route to career success lies in going to university, but almost a quarter (21%) would not encourage this as an option because of the perceived expense involved.
• Research shows, however, that graduates could earn around £160,000 more over their working life compared to someone who went to work straight after A Levels. Engineering graduates can expect to earn significantly more - £243,730***.
• Engineering graduates can expect an average starting salary of £22,000, with new science graduates earning £21,000****. According to the Confederation of British Industry, this is more than those entering finance, sales or human resources.
Parents are put off by politicians
• Being a politician is the job parents least want their child to have. This is closely followed by professional footballer, hairdresser, pop star and banker
Parents value skills
• For parents, the most important skills to set their children up for life include mastering the computer (35%), grasping basic science principles (21%), and learning a foreign language (17%).

For further information please contact Mark Thomson or Charlotte Sprague at Consolidated PR on 020 7781 2300 or email

Notes to Editors

Research was undertaken for The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair Group by among a sample of 3,000 parents with children aged 4-17 from 12 - 17 January 2011. 

* Figures sourced from the CBI-EDI Education and Skills Survey on 17 May 2010.

** The Big Bang refers to critical areas, which include industries, such as electric vehicles, manufacturing, off shore wind farms and pharmaceuticals. 

*** Figures sourced from The Engineering UK 2011 – the state of engineering report

**** Figures sourced from the CBI-EDI Education and Skills Survey on 17 May 2010

About The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair 2011 and the National Science & Engineering Competition

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair will take place from 10-12 March 2011 at ICC London ExCeL and will celebrate and raise the profile of young people’s achievement in science and engineering and enable more young people to experience the excitement and opportunities available through science, technology, engineering and maths with support from their parents and teachers. School groups will be invited to visit the first two days of The Big Bang, which will also be open to the public on the Saturday. Young people will leave enlightened about how science and engineering feature in everything they wear, eat and do. A number of apprentice, graduate and experienced engineers and scientists will be on hand to quiz and young people will have the opportunity to discover a great career.

The Big Bang hosts the finals of the prestigious National Science & Engineering Competition and also kicks off National Science & Engineering Week 2011.
The National Science & Engineering Competition is open to 11-18 year olds across the UK who have completed a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths. Entries can come from teams or individuals.

Finalists are invited to present their project at The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair. Here they'll have their own exhibition stand amongst the big household names to show-off all their hard work to journalists, prospective employers and universities – as well as the school groups and VIPs attending The Fair. It’s a great opportunity to display their talents in front of many interested and influential people.

For more information please visit