It’s here—the 59th annual event to encourage students to consider engineering careers while building public understanding and appreciation of engineers’ contributions to society. Created in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, National Engineers Week is backed by more than 100 professional societies, major corporations, and government agencies, with the goal of ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce.
“Recruiting the next generation of engineers and technologists is important, so pay your dues,” wrote POWER’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Robert Peltier, in the magazine’s February issue. “They’re being put to good use.” Read more about how this significant event impacts the industry.
Survey Shows Kids Saying No to Engineering Careers
When it comes to kids’ dream jobs, engineering is not on the list. An overwhelming 85% of youth say that they are not interested in an engineering career for a variety of reasons, according to a recent survey of youth and adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). That number is troubling, especially in light of a finding by the National Science Foundation that projects that by 2010, the U.S. will be short 70,000 engineers.
The study evaluated 1,277 U.S. youth, ages 8 to 17 between Nov. 20 and Dec. 1, 2008, to provide a better understanding about the perceptions of selecting an engineering career. Harris also fielded a separate online survey between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, 2008, of 2,196 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older. Of those, 584 are parents of children ages 17 and under.
According to the survey, the top three reasons why kids aren’t interested in engineering:
- Kids don’t know much about engineering (44%).
- Kids prefer a more exciting career than engineering (30%).
- They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21%) to be good at it. This is despite the fact that the largest number of kids ranked math (22%) and science (17%) as their favorite subjects.
Findings from the adult survey on this topic show that:
- Only 20% of parents have encouraged/will encourage their child/children to consider an engineering career.
- The vast majority of parents (97%) believe that knowledge of math and science will help their children have a successful career.
The survey also found the following gender differences:
- More girls say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an actress (21%) than the number who say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an engineer (10%). Other careers that parents encouraged girls to think about include doctor (33%), lawyer (25%), teacher (31%), veterinarian (23%), nurse (20%), and businessperson (17%).
- Boys (24%) are significantly more likely than girls (5%) to say they are interested in an engineering career.
- More boys (31%) than girls (10%) say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career.
“The shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010 will likely cause less focus on innovation toward quality as well as aging and outdated standards,” said Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer, ASQ member and process engineer. “In addition, knowledge transfer from retiring engineers to incoming engineers will continue to weaken, threatening progress. This will increase infrastructure costs for generations to come.”