Mommas don't let their babies grow up to be engineers

More than 85% of students today aren't considering careers in engineering, a new survey found, as more parents encourage girls specifically to become actresses than IT professionals.

The vast majority of students recently polled confirmed that interest in engineering careers has waned significantly, with a majority (44%) of respondents citing a lack of knowledge around engineering as the top reason they would not pursue such jobs. Another top reason kids don't consider a career in high-tech involves the "geek" perception for 30%, who indicated "engineering would be a boring career," according to the American Society for Quality (ASQ)

ASQ commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey of 1,277 U.S. youths aged 8 to 17 and 2,196 U.S. adults aged 18-plus, of whom 584 reported being parents of children aged 17 or younger. The ASQ kicked off the study in light of forecasts that there will be a shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010, according to the National Academy of Sciences and National Science Foundation.

Another factor kids surveyed indicated steers them away from a career in engineering is a lack of confidence in math or science skills (21%). Yet 22% of kids polled listed math as their favorite subject and 17% find science the most fun. Additionally, just 20% parents encourage their children to consider an engineering career, despite the fact that 97% of parents said they believe 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," said 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."

The survey results also revealed a gender divide among students' career aspirations and parental guidance. Among the girls, 21% said their parents encourage them to be actresses vs. 10% hearing about the potential of engineering from their parents. Other careers parents find suitable for their girls include doctor (33%), teacher (31%), lawyer (25%), veterinarian (23%), nurse (20%) and businessperson (17%).

Boys indicated a higher interest in engineering careers than girls: 24% vs. 5%. And parents follow suit. Nearly one-third of boys polled said their parents have encouraged them to consider a career in engineering, vs. just 10% of girls who said the same.

This story, "Mommas don't let their babies grow up to be engineers" was originally published by Network World.

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