Teens Admire Engineers’ Problem-Solving Skills but Turn to Others in Some Social Situations: ASQ Survey

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New studies by ASQ examine realities and misconceptions of engineers and engineering profession

engineers, quality, education, students, national engineers week

Teens admire engineers for their intelligence and problem-solving ability, according to a new study

Engineers today come from a variety of backgrounds and personalities -- you just can't box them into one type.

While most teens admire engineers’ problem-solving skills and agree engineers are very smart, only 2 percent would invite an engineer to be their date at a wedding, further supporting engineers’ perceptions that society deems them as socially awkward, according to new surveys by ASQ.

But according to a survey of teens conducted by Kelton for ASQ, overall engineers’ perceptions are unfounded: only 9 percent of teens described engineers as socially awkward, and only 8 percent say engineers are boring. Furthermore, the survey finds 80 percent of teens view engineers as very smart and 68 percent agree engineers are problem solvers.

In a separate survey of 841 ASQ member engineers, 58 percent say they believe society in general views engineers as socially awkward and 48 percent think society views them as boring. In contrast, only 12 percent of engineers believe their peers are awkward and only 4 percent say they’re boring.

The Kelton survey, conducted in January in advance of National Engineers Week, Feb. 22-28, was fielded among U.S. youth ages 13-17 to discover their perceptions about engineers and the profession. The ASQ engineer survey also was conducted in January.

SOCIAL STIGMAS REMAIN

Despite the growing respect for engineers as problem solvers and being very smart, it seems that stereotypes remain. According to the Kelton Survey, 11 percent of girls think engineers are boring compared to 5 percent of boys.

Teens say they would choose to hang out with individuals other than engineers in some social situations, according to survey results. While 58 percent of youth say they would call an engineer to get help with a home repair, only 3 percent would ask an engineer to help plan a party when compared with individuals in other fields, like a doctor, a chef, an actor, or teacher.

According to the Kelton Survey, when asked who they would like to take to a wedding, 44 percent said actor, and 11 percent said doctor, while only 2 percent chose engineers.

When planning a party, 61 percent of teens said they would enlist the help of a chef, followed by actor (16 percent), and engineer (3 percent).

But while teens are unlikely to consider engineers in some social situations, engineers say their communications skills, outgoing personalities and honesty benefit them socially. According to the ASQ survey of engineers, 85 percent of engineers say their good communications skills benefit them in social situations, followed by an outgoing personality, 70 percent, and honesty, 65 percent.

“It’s very promising to see that teens think highly of engineers but it’s clear that some misperceptions still need to be dispelled,” said ASQ CEO William Troy. “Engineers today come from a variety of backgrounds and personalities — you just can’t box them into one type.”

ENGINEER ROLE MODELS

A sign of shifting social status for engineers may be seen in popular culture. When it comes to high-profile role models, engineers are rising to the top. According to the Kelton survey, 41 percent of teens consider Steve Wozniak, engineer and co-founder of Apple Computers, their role model. Other role models include:

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder, 34 percent
  • Pop music star Taylor Swift, 32 percent
  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, 23 percent
  • Actress Jennifer Aniston, 22 percent
  • Retired baseball player Derek Jeter, 21 percent
  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, 20 percent

In a different, open-ended question to ASQ member engineers, they named scientists, engineers, politicians and sports stars as role models, including former President Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan, among others.

CAREER PERCEPTION VS. REALITY

The surveys also revealed contrasts between teens and engineers when it comes to engineering careers:

  • Salary: 69 percent of teens think that engineers get paid high salaries but only 19 percent of engineers agree they get paid a high salary.
  • Job security: 38 percent of teens say engineers are easily able to get a job but only 21 percent of engineers agree.
  • Love math: 68 percent of teens believe engineers love math but only 38 percent of engineers agree.
  • Long hours: 39 percent of teens believe engineers work long hours but 47 percent of engineers say that working long hours is realistic.

In the workplace, the skills engineers say benefit them most include:

  • Problem solving (93 percent)
  • Good communication skills (86 percent)
  • Leadership skills and honesty (72 percent)
  • Strong math skills (58 percent)
  • Outgoing personality (48 percent)

About the Surveys
The ASQ survey was conducted by Kelton between Jan. 5 and Jan. 14 using an email invitation and an online survey. The survey was conducted among 1,015 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older (margin of error = +/-3.1 percent) and 503 nationally representative American teens ages 13-17 (margin of error = +/-4.4 percent). The poll of ASQ member engineers was conducted Jan. 15–26 and elicited 841 responses from ASQ members who identify themselves as engineers using an email invitation and online poll.

About ASQ
ASQ is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better. With millions of individual and organizational members of the community in 150 countries, ASQ has the reputation and reach to bring together the diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s corporations, organizations and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges. ASQ is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., with national service centers in China, India, Mexico and a regional service center in the United Arab Emirates. Learn more about ASQ’s members, mission, technologies and training at asq.org.

About Kelton
Kelton is a leading global insights firm serving as a partner to more than 100 of the Fortune 500 and thousands of smaller companies and organizations. Utilizing a wide range of customized, innovative research techniques and staff expertise in marketing, branding, PR, media and business strategy, Kelton helps drive clients’ businesses forward. For more information, visit keltonglobal.com.

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Christel Henke
American Society for Quality
+1 (414) 332-2933
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Christel Henke
ASQ
since: 06/2009
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