Confused parents don’t know what an engineer is. Six times more likely to know Justin Bieber than Elon Musk!


Above: Engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Pic: By Maurizio Pesce from Milan, Italia – Elon Musk, Tesla Factory, Fremont (CA, USA), CC BY 2.0,

Research released today from the Institution of Engineering and Technology has revealed that, despite engineering generating £1 in every £4 of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), there is a severe lack of understanding about the industry among the general public.

The majority (93%) of parents claim to know what an engineer is yet when pressed less than a quarter feel very confident in describing what an engineer actually does (23%).

The survey of over 2,000 parents of school aged children, which was undertaken to mark Engineering Open House Day on Friday 28th July, shows that respondents are comfortable with describing what a teacher (64%), nurse (62%) and police officer (60%) all do as a profession but only 23% know what an engineer does.

And it’s not just traditional careers that they find easier to describe. In fact, more parents can describe what a YouTuber does (26%) than an engineer!

Parents are also six times more familiar with pop star Justin Bieber (77%) than famous engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk (pictured above) who is currently ranked as the 21st most powerful man in the world by Forbes (13%).

Sadly, more parents can also recognise reality TV star, Joey Essex (57%), than Isambard Brunel (41%), who revolutionised the transport and engineering industry in England in the 19th century.

Says Nigel Fine, Chief Executive of the Institution of Engineering and Technology:

“Engineering is crucial in the world we live in, playing a role in everything from the phone we use to the apps we rely on, and the transport we take to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. The results highlight there is a gap in knowledge about the careers in engineering, at a time when it is really important to understand what a fantastic, creative and diverse career it can be.”

The research marks the launch of the third annual Engineering Open House Day on Friday 28 July 2017, co-ordinated by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

This year the day will see 44 UK companies and organisations opening their doors to invite parents and children to learn about engineering through a series of talks, tours and demonstrations. The aim is to inspire young people, and their parents, to consider engineering as a rewarding, diverse and creative career.

It’s estimated that 2 million jobs in engineering need to be filled by 2020, but the results of the survey show that despite over half of parents (56%) saying their child has an idea of their career goals, less than a quarter (22%) have mentioned engineering as an option.

Registrations for Engineering Open House Day are now open. To find a local event in your area on Friday 28 July, visit

Chris Price