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The 411: Youth

What’s the right career for your children?

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January 4, 2012 | 1,390 views | Post a comment

If you ask kids in elementary school what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll likely hear singer, ballerina, athlete or movie star. As students move into middle school and high school, they think more seriously about career possibilities. All parents want their children to be successful, so what careers should they expose them to in order to help them make a good decision?

This is a tough question for parents living in current economic times, where once successful career paths now suffer from fierce competition and high unemployment rates. There is a career, however, that continues to thrive through the down economy, and it offers a variety of flavors that can fit just about any child’s interests and personality: engineering.

Did you know employment in engineering is more than 4 percentage points lower than the national unemployment rate? Engineering majors make an average yearly income of $75,000, higher than the yearly income of graduates in any other field. These facts alone may inspire more parents to think of suggesting engineering as a career option to their children.

Intel recently commissioned a study of 1,000 American teens aged 13 to 18, to better understand how to get more of them interested in engineering as a career. The results suggest that exposure to any facts about engineering may inspire nearly half of teens to consider engineering as a career.

A conversation with your teen about what engineers do and specifically how much money they earn might be all that lies between your child and his or her future as a successful engineer. Here are six proactive tips for parents and teachers to help students consider a career in engineering:

•Help kids understand what engineering is all about.

Providing your children with a better understanding of what engineers actually do can increase consideration of a career in the field. So talk about how rewarding it is to be an engineer. Explain the different types of engineers that exist, such as chemical, agricultural, sound or computer, and what exactly they do.

•Make engineering more personal. Children who know an engineer are more likely to consider the field. Do you have a friend or colleague they could meet and ask questions, or job shadow? Giving a face to engineers can help create a sense that “if they can do it, I can do it.”

•Emphasize how engineers can play a role in making the world a better place.

Play up the impact engineers have on the world. For example, explain that engineers were responsible for saving the trapped Chilean miners last year. Or how a biomedical engineer might work on a new medical device that can help save thousands of lives and environmental engineers help endangered plants and animals survive.

•Reframe the difficulty of engineering as a positive challenge, a badge of honor.

Most adults know that succeeding at something you thought was hard is one of the best feelings in the world. Parents should explain their own experiences with overcoming difficulty and motivate their kids to take on new challenges, despite how daunting they may seem. The rewards could be impressive. In fact, engineering is the most common college major amongst S&P 500 CEOs.

•Talk dollars and cents. Explain the earning power of those who work in the engineering field. Half of the top 20 best-paying college degrees are in an engineering field. Roughly 60 percent of teens surveyed are more likely to consider engineering after learning about the career’s earning power.

•Explain that engineers help our country. From 1990 to 2010, overall college graduation levels in the United States have grown about 50 percent, but during that same period the number of engineering graduates has stagnated at around 120,000. By contrast, roughly 1 million engineers a year graduate from universities in India and China.

This gap hinders global competitiveness and threatens our ability to both retain and create high-tech, good-paying jobs here in the United States. More children becoming engineers will help America remain the world’s leading innovator.

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