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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has today warned that the lack of suitable role models for school-aged children is hindering the UK’s chances of addressing the engineering skills shortage, following new research showing that more than a quarter* (27%) of 10 to 16-year olds don’t feel like they have a role model they can relate to.

The study reveals that nearly half (47%) of school children prefer to visit YouTube as a daily source of advice and nearly two in five (37%) ask questions about future careers to their influencer and celebrity role models compared to a third (33%) who ask for advice on family matters.

The research was commissioned to coincide with The IET’s partnership with pop trio, New Hope Club, and Blue Peter, which offered children nationwide the chance to engineer the band’s new Christmas music video and receive mentorship from industry professionals to learn about the key role engineering plays in the music industry.

A quarter of 13 – 16-year olds say they have tried to contact their celebrity role model on social media for career advice with more than half trying to contact them through Instagram (53%), YouTube (43%) and Twitter (42%). Of those that have reached out, more than a third (35%) report that their role model or mentor didn’t reply to their direct message or comment when they asked for advice. 

According to the research, more than two thirds (68%) of children aren’t aware of the vital role that engineering plays in some of the most popular industries, including the music industry, film and TV production, vlogging and the sports industry. In fact, less that one in five (17%) of those surveyed can name two or more engineers, mathematicians or scientists. 

In the absence of academic role models, particularly from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) industries, children are turning to celebrity influencers, with the most popular career inspirations for 10 to 16-year olds being the best-selling author, JK Rowling, popstar Ariana Grande and British Royal, Prince Harry. 

Meanwhile, nearly half (47%) of parents don’t know who their children’s role models are and more than half of parents say they are worried their offspring look up to reality stars (55%) and celebrities (57%), rather than real-world figures. 

The study also explored the impact that some of the biggest cultural moments in recent years has had in shaping children’s interests and aspirations. Tim Peake’s 2016 space mission (20%), London 2012 Olympics (19%), England’s 2018 World Cup run (15%) and this year’s Royal Wedding (11%) placed highest in the moments children feel most inspired by. 

David Lakin, Head of Education at The IET says: 

“It’s worrying that children are turning to celebrities and influencers for credible careers advice rather than industry role models. The research shows that there needs to be more mentor figures from STEM backgrounds and this could be why, when it comes to career inspiration, engineering falls short.  We need to continue to raise awareness of the vital role engineering plays in some of the UK’s most popular industries – from music to TV production and sport.”

The new music video from New Hope Club, engineered by children was released on the 14th December on New Hope Club’s YouTube channel. During filming for the video, children received mentorship and guidance on set from engineers to learn about the role  engineering plays in music production. Head to YouTube.com/TheIET now to watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes video from the shoot and to see what the children got up to on set.

*Research conducted by OnePoll between 19/11/18 and 21/11/18 with 1000 parents and 1000 children taking part.

**According to Engineering UK’s report, Engineering UK: The State of Engineering

About the Institution of Engineering and Technology: One of Europe’s largest professional engineering bodies with 169,000 members across more than 150 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.

The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.

Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.

About New Hope Club: Quickly becoming one of the most talked about new bands in the world. With over 430,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, 40 million global streams and half a million YouTube subscribers, New Hope Club is poised to takeover in 2019.

New Hope Club made up of Reece Bibby, Blake Richardson and George Smith -  is a three-piece from the UK who have spent the past 18 months building up a loyal fanbase. The trio have teased warm up tracks and covers of their favourite artists online and toured relentlessly around the world. Earlier this Summer they sold out two headline shows at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. New Hope Club has garnered a huge buzz Stateside where they have signed to Hollywood Records, toured with Sabrina Carpenter and are in talks to perform on some of the biggest shows in the US.

About Blue Peter: The longest running children’s television show in the world, Blue Peter, celebrated its 60th anniversary on October 16th, 2018. Throughout 2018 the show has celebrated with a host of special events to honour the occasion including working with the Red Arrows, celebrating 30 years of the show’s Green Badge and launching a new Diamond Badge. Blue Peter is on CBBC every Thursday at 5.30pm.   

About CBBC: BBC Children’s is a bold, multi-genre, public service offering that has earned the unswerving trust of British families. It is home to the UK’s most popular children’s channels, CBBC and CBeebies, delivering world-class, UK-produced children’s programming across all genres, including drama, comedy, factual and news. The great majority of our experiences are produced in the UK as we aim to reflect the diverse lives of our viewers - and give as many of them as possible a voice across all our platforms. CBeebies is dedicated to delighting and surprising its pre-school audience and remains the UK's most watched and most loved channel for the under-sixes. CBBC is the go-to destination for children 6-12 to enjoy inspiring and enabling TV and Interactive experiences across all platforms.  In July 2017, the BBC announced it biggest investment in children’s services in a generation - an additional £34 million. This will enable the BBC to reinvent how it serves its youngest audience in the years ahead, ensuring the BBC’s commitment to informing, educating and entertaining the UK’s children will continue, even as the way young audiences consume media fundamentally changes.

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