Despite the fact that 60 percent of all university students in Sweden are women, women only make up 30 percent of students in engineering programmes. Although the number has gone up over the past decade, the trend is still far too slow.
“It’s a big loss when so many are deciding to drop out of their engineering degree programmes. Industries and society are in great need of all types of skills to help us meet the challenges facing our society,” says Jonas Gustavsson, CEO of engineering and design company ÅR, which offers internships, including through Tekniksprånget.
The low number of women in engineering programmes is, however, not due to a lack of interest on their part. The fresh, updated results of Tekniksprånget’s annual portal survey show this. In the survey conducted from 2015 to 2018 more than 10,000 young people were asked about their attitudes, expectations and fears relating to higher education and work life.
In the survey 89 percent of young men and 86 percent of young women – more than eight out of ten – indicated that it was “highly likely” that they would choose to study for an engineering degree. But the fact that many women in the end do not opt to study engineering may be due to a number of factors. For example, almost one in three young women were uncertain about where the education would lead, compared to one in five men. And 12 percent of women were concerned that “the maths would be too hard”, compared to 9 percent of men. This is despite the fact that girls on average have better grades at school than boys.
“Tekniksprånget clearly shows that it is only when young women are given a chance to test a career as an engineer that we see the real results. A full 50 percent of all those who have done a Tekniksprånget internship and then apply to university are young women,” says Alexandra Ridderstad, head of IVA’s Tekniksprånget programme.
The programme’s surveys support this; after four months 80 percent of all those completing a Tekniksprånget internship want to study to become an engineer. Half of them are women.
“Before this I didn’t know what I wanted to study, but the internship inspired me to apply for an engineering programme. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to get an insight into a new industry and it encouraged me to continue studying,” says Elsa Nilsson, who is now a student at Chalmers University of Technology and was a Tekniksprånget intern at Autoliv.
Tekniksprånget is a four-month, paid internship programme run by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, IVA. Sweden’s employers and the Government are investing in the programme to ensure a supply of talent and to get young people interested and motivated to study engineering. About 200 employers are involved and offering internships in more than 100 locations in Sweden.
More than 17,000 young people have so far applied to Tekniksprånget and around 4,000 have completed an internship. Eight out of ten go on to study engineering following their internship. Half of them are women. Nine out of ten think that Tekniksprånget is helping to lower the high drop-out rate in engineering degree programmes.