Quality Magazine

ASQ: Engineering Image Problem Could Fuel Shortage

January 26, 2009

MILWAUKEE-When it comes to kids’ dream jobs, engineering has its own problem to solve. An overwhelming 85% of kids say that they are not interested in a future engineering career for a variety of reasons, according to recent surveys of youths and adults conducted on behalf of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Survey results indicate the top reasons why kids may not be interested in pursuing engineering:

  • Kids do not know much about engineering (44%).
  • Kids prefer a more exciting career than engineering (30%).
  • They do not feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21%) to be good at it- 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:

  • Only 20% of parents have encouraged/will encourage their child/children to consider 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.

    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 of U.S. engineers, which will reach 70,000 by 2010 based on an estimate by the National Science Foundation.

    The survey also found the following gender differences in career interests and intent:

  • 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.

  • 31% of boys vs. 10% of girls say their parents have encouraged them to think about an engineering 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.”