The American Society for Quality (ASQ) has learned that when it comes to kids’ dream jobs, engineering is not on the list. An overwhelming 85 percent of youth(1) say that 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. And with National Engineers Week just around the corner (February 15-21), manufacturers are facing a troubling shortage.

 

The top three reasons why kids aren’t interested in engineering:

·        Kids don’t know much about engineering (44 percent).

·        Kids prefer a more exciting career than engineering (30 percent).

·        They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21 percent) 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/will encourage their child/children to consider an engineering career.

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

 

The ASQ survey among youth ages 8 to 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.

 

Actress vs. Engineer? Other survey findings:

 

The survey also found the following gender differences:

·        More girls say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an actress (21 percent) than the number who say 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 (31 percent), 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.

·        Thirty-one percent of boys vs. 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shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010 will likely cause less focus on innovation toward quality as well as aging and outdated standards,” said Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer, ASQ member and process engineer.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.”

 

ASQ 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. The webinar 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 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 inside perspective of two successful engineers working on interesting projects.

 

More information on the Webinar will be available soon at www.asq.org/manufacturing.

 

About the Survey
Harris Interactive fielded the online youth survey on behalf of ASQ between November 20 and December 1, 2008, among 1,277 U.S. youth ages 8 to 17. Harris fielded a separate online survey between December 15 and December 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.

 

About ASQ
The American Society for Quality, www.asq.org, has been the world’s leading authority on quality for more than 60 years. With more than 90,000 individual and organizational members, the professional association advances learning, quality improvement and knowledge exchange to improve business results and to create better workplaces and communities worldwide. As champion of the quality movement, ASQ offers technologies, concepts, tools and training to quality professionals, quality practitioners and everyday consumers, encouraging all to Make Good Great. ASQ has been the sole administrator of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award since 1991. Headquartered in Milwaukee, ASQ is a founding partner of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a prominent quarterly economic indicator, and also produces the Quarterly Quality Report.

 

(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.