Media release - 14/4/2009

Inspiration needed for “unsexy” stem subjects

Students are not choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects because they are seen as too difficult, un-aspirational and un-sexy according to careers advisors at a recent Careers Research Advisory Council (CRAC) meeting in Lancaster. Attendees at the ‘Decisions at 18’ Conference went on to identify the need for more inspirational role models, projects and teaching to get young people motivated by STEM subjects.

At the CRAC’s flagship three day residential conference at Lancaster University careers advisors were asked about the reasons for students choosing not to study STEM subjects and the ways in which they could be motivated to do so. The main reasons why STEM subjects were not studied were given as:
• The subjects are not sexy or aspirational
• A perception both by students and by schools that STEM subjects are difficult
• The lack of high profile individuals that represent STEM i.e. there are not many politicians that are scientists
• Students are not aware of the opportunities available in STEM careers; although many of them are interested in careers in forensic science as a result of popular TV programmes like CSI, Silent Witness, Waking the Dead etc…
• Lack of clarity about progression with new qualifications such as the Diploma and Applied Science GCSEs
• The teaching (and teacher) of these subjects is very important, young people are more likely to pick STEM subjects if they like the teacher
Whilst the following were listed as best practice for getting students to stay on studying STEM:
• Inspirational teachers and teaching methods
• Projects like F1 in Schools and Bloodhound SSC and the Bradford Build a Hovercraft Project are good examples; although the need for more activities to appeal to girls was identified
• Informing young people about salary levels in STEM careers (which are higher than young people would expect and comparable to other professions like accountancy and IT sector jobs) may encourage students to find out more about STEM careers
• Alumni coming back to inspire students can be very effective

Catherine Teague, Senior Executive for Careers at the Engineering and Technology Board, speaking at the Opportunities from Science, Maths and Engineering Workshop said: “What we have heard here today resonates strongly with what a lot of careers advisors have been telling us - we need to keep getting the message across to young people that, far from being dull or limiting, STEM subjects are fun, relevant and ever more present in every part of our daily lives.

“There is a clear consensus building around the need to provide young people with the right combination of good teaching, coupled with access to inspirational STEM activities and informed careers advice, especially to young girls, to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers to come forward.”

The ETB engiunity careers resource pack and website aims to support this process by providing accurate and concise details about the possibilities of careers in Engineering and Technology (E&T) for young people, teachers and advisers. It includes teaching resources for Key Stage 3 Science and Design & Technology as well as case studies about real STEM jobs and easy to use charts describing the relevant qualification options and paths to E&T careers.

The ETB and its partners has also recently been involved in the organisation of The Big Bang (, the UK’s first young scientists and engineers fair in early March. The fair, a partnership by engineering, science, business and Government was aimed at motivating and informing young people about the importance and excitement of science and engineering careers. The successful event attracted nearly 5,000 young people to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on the 4th- 6th March. Next year The Big Bang will be taking place in Manchester on the 11th-13th March 2010.

Notes to Editors
 The enginuity careers resource pack is produced by the Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) and distributed annually to all state and independent schools and FE colleges. It can ordered and downloaded in full at

For further information please contact:
Gareth Lyon, Communications Executive, EngineeringUK
Tel: 020 3206 0445 or (m) 07887 943 017