When it comes to kids’ dream jobs, engineering has its own problem to solve. In a job market riddled by layoffs, careers like engineering and IT are experience a shortage of qualified candidates. Yet 85% of kids ages 8-17 say they aren’t interested in engineering as a future career, and their parents aren’t encouraging it either, based on a new national survey of youth and adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of American Society for Quality. Survey participants included 1,277 U.S. youths and 2,196 U.S. adults, of which 27% were parents of youths.
Why This Is Important
The National Science Foundation estimates a projected shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010, so an overwhelming majority of kids stating they have no interest in engineering careers could have serious consequences for organizations’ productivity around the U.S.
“The shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010 will likely cause less focus on innovation toward quality, as well as aging and outdated standards,” says Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer, ASQ member and engineer with Sprint/Nextel. “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.”
Lack of Knowledge and the Engineering Stigma
Based on the survey, kids aren’t interested in engineering because:
• They don’t know much about it (44%)
• They think engineering would be a boring career (30%)
• They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills to be good at it (21%), despite the fact that the largest number of kids ranked math (22%) and science (17%) as their favorite subjects.
Influence of Parents
• Only 20% of parents have encouraged/will encourage their child/children to consider an engineering career
• More girls say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an actress (21%) than 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, and 31% of boys vs. 10% of girls say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career
• The vast majority of parents (97%) said they believe that knowledge of math and science will help their children have a successful career.
“It’s clear that there is a low level of interest and knowledge about engineering careers for both parents and children,” says Maurice Ghysels, chair of ASQ’s K-12 Education Advisory Committee. “Educators and engineers need to work more closely together to get students excited about the profession and spotlight interesting role models.”
Real World of Engineering Webinar
ASQ has more than 14,000 engineer members who are concerned about ensuring a work force of skilled, highly educated engineers for the future. To get more kids interested in engineering, ASQ now offers a free webinar called “Real World of Engineering” available at www.asq.org/manufacturing. It features ASQ members, including Birdsong-Dyer discussing cell phones and Chuck Kanapicki with American Bridge/Fluor Enterprise, a joint venture, discussing bridge building. The webinar is designed to provide middle/high school students and parents a clear view of what engineers do and what skills are necessary to become an engineer, as well as provide them with inside perspective from two successful engineers working on interesting projects.