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Enticing girls (and boys) into engineering…

by mel starrs on May 12, 2006

in The Profession


I almost fell off the sofa last week when I saw this ad on TV. According to the Construction Skills website:

‘The new advertising campaign ‘Make Your Mark’ features iconic buildings, which come to life in a specially animated style, evoking the sense of dreams becoming reality. For the first time this year we will be running an interactive TV campaign, where by young people can pass us their details and opt into the on going email communication campaign through the red button on their television set. To maintain recognition with our core target audience, the advert has a distinctive voiceover from T4 presenter June Sarpong to reach young women without alienating young men.’

The accompanying website can be found at It’s ok, but I think they’ve missed a trick by not emphasising the sustainability side of things. Under building services engineering they describe the role as:

Your house or college wouldn’t be much fun to be in without a building services engineer. For a start, it would be cold and dark – and you’d be pretty smelly! It’s their job to design, install and maintain the essential services such as gas, electricity, water, heating and lighting – as well as many you probably don’t give much thought to. These all help to make buildings comfortable and healthy places to live and work in.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ve probably already got a healthy interest in science, especially physics. On top of this, you’ll also need to be keen on protecting the environment, because you’ll be making sure that all types of energy are used properly and efficiently. For more info on what it takes to make it as a building services engineer, visit’

They also reckon an associate architect earns £5k more than a senior engineer. Hmmm. Not sure about that. The latest salary survey (registration required – published May last year – which means a new one out imminently) at BSJ puts senior building services design engineers (30 y.o. working towards chartership) on a national average of £32,538, £4.5k more than the bConstructive site. Whilst RIBA have a private practice salaried 30 y.o. architect on £31,500. Score! The most the architects make is £67,000 by the time they hit 50 and have their own practice, whilst BSE has a Partner, chartered in Yorkshire at 45 y.o. on £61,500 max. Not too shoddy.

How can we persuade young folk to become engineers? If the figures above don’t persuade them, then what more can we do? Attracting young engineers is currently vying with the Peter Principle (a post for another day) as the biggest challenge facing the industry today. Do we know how to appeal to the myspace generation? It should be easy – compare building simulation to creating cities in SimCity? Fairly similar skills required (the ability to think in 3D, think ahead, visualise, etc).

Is the key schools? Would a leaflet from an employer be enough to persuade someone sitting in a classroom to do a degree in architectural engineering?

No, I think we need a groovy TV show a la CSI – apparently enrollment in forensics degrees have skyrocketed…

(If readers have an interest in youth culture and the whole myspace phenomenon, Danah at Apophenia has some good observations)

Update: Just found this link on BBC :

Writers are being offered £35,000-worth of prizes to feature engineering characters on stage, screen or radio.

::via Archinect