John Allen, chairman of engineer John Allen Consulting, talks about the imaginative ideas his firm is employing to attract young people into the industry
Who are you targeting in your campaign to encourage teens into engineering?
We are trying to make engineering a more glamorous career option for youngsters aged around 14. We need to get this message across at a very early stage in a child's education as it's no use wading in after a teenager has already chosen their A-levels. By then it's often too late.

So what exactly are you doing to interest youngsters in engineering?
We feel that not enough teachers and careers advisers know much about engineering themselves, so it's no wonder that children aren't encouraged into the profession. To counter this, we are trying to interest the teachers and careers advisers in engineering, as a way of getting through to the youngsters. We're contacting local schools and offering to send in our engineers to explain what they do and why it's exciting.

Another part of this campaign was our involvement with the Tomorrow's World roadshow, which visited London last month.

We put together an exhibition designed to give children, parents and teachers a taste of the huge range of jobs available to engineers. We wanted to point out that engineers are significant contributors to all sorts of things that people don't usually associate with the profession – like the design and manufacture of golf clubs, telephones and planes. We also want to encourage children with a flair for engineering to develop their talent.

How do you go about spotting engineering flair?
We've invented our own interactive computer game for young people, which gives them four minutes to reduce the weight of a hypothetical bridge. More than 150 teenagers tried out the game at the Tomorrow's World roadshow, so we feel that it has been quite a success. At the end of the roadshow, we worked out who had come up with the best solution to the task and we are now about to offer the young man sponsorship throughout his A-levels and his university career. After this we'll offer him a job.

You don’t have to be a big outfit to attract young people into a career in engineering, you just need some imagination

How would you react if person you are sponsoring drops out of engineering?
The individual we're offering sponsorship to is only 16, and it's true that his interests could develop in all sorts of directions. If he drops out, so be it – we think it's worth the risk.

Do you think employers or engineering institutions should be promoting the profession?
The institutions take too long to get moving with issues like this.

It's up to companies to promote their profession. You don't have to be a big outfit to make a difference, you just need some imagination. Another thing we're doing, for example, is to highlight the link between engineers and inventors. We're working with inventor Trevor Bayliss [creator of the wind-up radio], who has set a trust that supports young inventors.