A whopping 87 percent of Americans identify engineers (when compared with other professions) as those who are fueling positive invention and innovation in society.
TE Connectivity –- an employer of more than 7,000 engineers -– sought to gauge how Americans view the engineering field and its importance in fueling US innovation. The company’s "Engineering Sentiment Survey" quizzed 1,017 adults in the US and found that in addition to attributing innovation to engineers, 73 percent of Americans believe that engineers' role in innovation and invention has increased over the past 20 years.
TE Connectivity executives attribute the high regard for engineering to the proliferation of tech-based consumer products. “There’s always been a high level of respect for engineering’s contribution to society,” Rob Shaddock, EVP and CTO at TE Connectivity, told Design News. “Technology has evolved rapidly, and now it’s readily available in consumers’ hands, so I think people are more interested in and excited about the continued innovation from engineers.”
The survey also asked what technology was most likely to positively impact society over the next 10 years. The leader -- with 33 percent -- was connected devices that allow users to connect their phones to their cars and TVs. Next was robot development with 22 percent, followed by wearable technologies such as Google Glass, computer watches, and fitness bands at 14 percent. 3D printing came in at 13 percent, and driverless vehicles were at 12 percent.
When it comes to preparing for an engineering career, Americans by 31 percent ranked STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs in elementary and middle school as the most effective. Other means to ready students for engineering include preparedness programs at 17 percent, mentorship at 17 percent, internships at 15 percent, and college or university resources to prevent drop-out from STEM-related fields at 15 percent.
Shaddock noted there is a growing interest in engineering careers, pointing to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study that found science and engineering degrees have increased by 19 percent since 2009, more than double the 9 percent growth rate for other fields.
“I believe the millennial generation has had a very different experience in being exposed to the profession,” Shaddock told us. “The why and how questions have become prevalent, and they continue to drive interest in careers of exploration, innovation, and invention. The mindset of millennials is to pursue a profession of purpose. They turn to STEM-related fields to make a difference.”
As for STEM programs that are particularly successful for inspiring engineering careers, Shaddock pointed to FIRST, a program sponsored by Design News. “STEM programs like the very successful FIRST Robotics Competition and the DiscoverE Future City Competition will continue to play an instrumental role in the growth of the profession. These are programs where kids are inspired to collaborate, form ideas, and build stuff, tapping into the very core of a young engineering mind.”
TE's Engineering Sentiment Survey was conducted by ORC International. It was based on 1,017 landline and cellphone interviews of US adults conducted January 3-5, 2014.