Choosing a career is like going shopping

WIN_20150616_121335When we go shopping many of us like to try things out and think about when we will use them, or wear them if they are clothes.  Susan Scurlock made this analogy at the Annual Congress of the UK Engineering Professors’ Council in April 2015 when she was talking about keeping children connected to engineering from the playroom floor to a career [see last week’s posting entitled ‘Everyone is born an engineer’].  It focusses attention on the important issue that if we want to attract young people into the engineering profession we have to let them try it out and we also have to offer an enticing prospect.

This might be obvious but we need something attractive to offer. And here, we have a problem because our male-dominated profession has created courses that appear boring and uninspiring to many in society.  This was one of the premises of a National Science Foundation project in the USA that I was involved in which looked at options for change in the engineering curriculum at university.   The main problem is not conceiving imaginative effective changes but persuading colleagues to implement these changes. It can work and there are shining examples such as those programmes with a focus on reducing global poverty and inequality at UC Berkeley and other enlightened institutions which were described by Sarah Mazzetti recently in the New York Times.

We have another big selling point that we tend to keep quiet about. Engineering is the happiest job in the world according to analysis by the Guardian newspaper on April 8th, 2015.

For more on the results of that NSF project see:

Busch-Vishniac, I., Kibler, T., Campbell, P.B., Patterson, E.A., Guillaume, D., Jarosz, J., Chassapis, C., Emery, A., Ellis, G., Whitworth, H., Metz, S., Brainard, S., Ray, P., 2011, Deconstructing Engineering Education Programmes: The DEEP Project to reform the mechanical engineering curriculum, European J Engng Education, 36(3):269-283.

Patterson, E.A., Campbell, P.B., Busch-Vishniac, I., Guillaume, D.W., 2011, The effect of context on student engagement in engineering, European J. Engng Education, 36(3):211-224.

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