MBDA in the UK challenges the public stereotype of engineering
This is Engineering Day, on Wednesday 6 November 2019, provides an opportunity to demonstrate the variety of roles engineers have, broadening perceptions of the profession.
This year, MBDA and other companies across the UK that depend on engineering and the ingenuity of engineers, such as BAE Systems and Facebook, will be joining forces with the Royal Academy of Engineering to publicly celebrate the engineers shaping the world around us and challenge the narrow stereotype of the engineer.
The Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, has created the day as part of their This is Engineering campaign to address the significant skills and diversity shortfall hampering the profession. Every year, the UK is short of 59,000 engineers, while only 12 % of the professional engineers in the UK are female, and 9% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
One of the major barriers to young people aspiring to be engineers is deeply rooted cultural perceptions of engineering as narrow, mechanical, too technical, and dull: a perception that’s being reinforced online. Enter the word ‘engineer’ into an online search engine and the resulting images offer a very narrow view, one that supports stereotypical ideas that engineering only happens in hard hats, on construction sites. This has prompted the Royal Academy of Engineering to call on companies like MBDA to help change the public perception of engineers and engineering by showing a different – and more representative – image of the profession in the 21st Century.
On This is Engineering Day MBDA engineers Jess, Christina and Nicola shared some of their stories and thoughts on their profession…
Jess, who is one of our senior engineers working on high-speed aerodynamics, remembers an aeroplane flight as a four-year-old that felt like being on a different planet, and it sparking her curiosity that in turn influenced her career path.
“When I was young, I thought that engineering is all about hammers and spanners but engineering is more than that. Engineering is about finding ways to make the impossible possible. It is everywhere and in everything. I was always a curious girl. My first plane ride that I could remember paved my curiosity into all things aerospace. How does a plane go up? How does it stay up in the air? Why is shaped the way it is? I believe anyone with a curious mind is an engineer. If you want to figure out how things work, why they work the way they do, you might be an engineer. It is more than old stereotypes and is always evolving. I am proud to be an engineer and I know I chose the right path to nourish and encourage my curiosity.”
Christina – who now uses her engineering expertise to help recruit our next generation of apprentices and graduates – previously used her skills to ensure that the maintenance of equipment on board Navy frigates is as easy as possible whilst deployed at sea. Something she may not have imagined as a child.
“When I was 10, during a Navy Day in Plymouth, I went on a tour of a Type 23 frigate and realised how much the sailors depended on their on-board equipment when they were at sea and deployed to serve our country. Little did I know, that many years later I would be part of an MBDA team focussing on ensuring our equipment on today’s Type 23’s could be maintained as easily as possible whilst at sea. The ships seemed a bit smaller than I remembered! This experience has been part of a varied engineering career that I have had to date, but one with a personal satisfaction of supporting our Navy.”
Today software engineering is just as important as mechanical engineering, with the need to able to use platforms such a Linux and Windows, and utilising languages like C, C++ and Java.
Inspired by taking part in one of our sponsored ‘Robot Rumble’ challenges whilst at school, Nicola is now one of MBDA’s a software degree apprentices. Nicola said:
“I became interested in an engineering career when I began robot rumble at the age of 15. I found building a robot and programming this metalwork to move and compete in challenges an incredible notion. When I left school, I signed up to study engineering through an apprenticeship. I realised quickly that being a woman in this industry was not a usual as it is in others, but over time I’ve felt very accepted in this community. The ratio of girls to guys still isn’t there yet, though I do have strong faith it will get there and if companies like MBDA, and others, keep pushing for it like they’re doing with This is Engineering Day, it will eventually make for a more diverse workforce.”
Their stories are very different from the public perception of engineering and reflects those of the young engineers featured in the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This is Engineering campaign.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering, comments: “Engineering and technology play an incredible role in shaping the world around us and in addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, from providing a sustainable supply of food, water and clean energy, to advancing healthcare, and keeping us safe and secure. We know that young people increasingly want to tackle these issues and make a difference in the world, but unfortunately, the lack of understanding around engineering is stopping them from exploring careers that will enable them to do this. This matters because we face an estimated shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers each year in the UK, and there is a pressing need to diversify our engineering workforce since only 12% of professional engineers are female and 9% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. That’s why we’re making 6 November This is Engineering Day, to raise awareness of what engineers really do and celebrate those that are shaping the world we live in.”
For more information on the campaign, and to show your support visit www.thisisengineering.org.uk and follow @ThisIsEngineering on Instagram, or search “follow what you love” on Facebook or follow @ThisIsEng on Twitter.