Quality commotion: Many kids are saying no to a career in engineering

An American Society for Quality survey among youth ages 8-17—as well as among parents—aimed to provide a better understanding about the perceptions of selecting an engineering career in light of a troubling shortage, which will reach 70,000 by 2010 based on an estimate by the National Science Foundation.<br/>


The American Society for Quality (ASQ) has learned that when it comes to kids’ dream jobs, engineering isn’t on the list. An overwhelming 85 percent of youth(1) say they are not interested in a future engineering career for a variety of reasons, according to a recent survey of youth and adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASQ.

The survey among youth ages 8-17—as well as among parents—aimed to provide a better understanding about the perceptions of selecting an engineering career in light of a troubling shortage, which will reach 70,000 by 2010 based on an estimate by the National Science Foundation .

And with National Engineers Week just around the corner (February 15-21), manufacturers are even more concerned about this shortage.

ASQ lists the top three reasons why kids aren’t interested in engineering as follows:

• They don’t know much about engineering (44 percent).

• They prefer a more exciting career than engineering (30 percent).

• They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21percent) to be good at it. This is despite the fact that the largest number of kids ranked math (22 percent) and science (17 percent) as their favorite subjects.

Findings from the adult survey on this topic show:

• Only 20 percent of parents(2) have encouraged or will encourage their child/children to consider an engineering career.

• The vast majority of parents (97 percent) believe knowledge of math and science will help their children have a successful career.

Actress vs. Engineer?

Other survey findings include gender differences:

• More girls say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an actress (21 percent) than those saying their parents are likely to encourage them to become an engineer (10 percent). Other careers that parents encouraged girls to think about include doctor (33 percent); lawyer (25 percent); teacher (31percent); veterinarian (23 percent); nurse (20 percent); and businessperson (17 percent).

• Boys (24 percent) are significantly more likely than girls (5 percent) to say they are interested in an engineering career.

• 31 percent of boys versus 10 percent of girls say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering career.

“The shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010 will cause less focus on innovation toward quality as well as aging and outdated standards,” says 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.”

ASQ’s Engineer Awareness Effort
In an effort to raise awareness, as well as promote engineering as a career choice, ASQ is developing a Webinar for young people and parents, which will be made available on the ASQ Web site during National Engineers Week, February 15-21. Titled Real World of Engineering, it will feature ASQ members and engineers Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer with Sprint/Nextel and Chuck Kanapicki with American Bridge . The Webinar seeks to provide middle/high school students and parents with a clear view of what engineers do and what skills are necessary to become an engineer, as well as provide them inside perspective of two successful engineers working on interesting projects. More details about the Webinar can be found here .

About the survey

Harris Interactive fielded the online youth survey on behalf of ASQ between Nov. 20 and Dec. 1, 2008, among 1,277 U.S. youth ages 8-17. Harris fielded a separate online survey between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, 2008, among 2,196 U.S. adults ages 18 years of age or older, of whom, 584 are parents of children ages 17 and under. These online surveys are not based on probability samples and therefore no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology statement for both studies is available.

(1)- For the purposes of this survey, “youth” were defined as U.S. kids ages 8-17.

(2)- For the purposes of this survey, “parents” were defined as U.S. adults ages 18+ who have a child/children under the age of 18.

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