Orange County Branch Newsletter

January 2014

Secretary's Column

Secretary's Column - Raising Awareness in Children for Civil Engineering as a Profession

By Chris J. Zadoorian, P.E., G.E.

Do you recall when you realized that your livelihood would be Civil Engineering? My awakening came when I was in 11th Grade and my math teacher mentioned to my father, who was also a teacher in the same school district, that I was ‘engineering material’. Up until that point I really didn’t know what engineering was and certainly didn’t plan to make a living at it.

A 1987 study indicated that when given a choice between parents, teachers, siblings, peers or others, the majority of students indicated "others" were most influential in their career decisions. Additionally, a 2004 study indicated that students within a ‘career portal’ (ages 11 – 19) were often put-off by science, engineering and technology courses either because they were not taught by specialists or because the subject matter was too theoretical and was not linked to everyday debates and technologies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the growth in the need for Civil Engineers will be 19.4% through 2020, which is considerably higher than the growth for other professions. Clearly, more emphasis on science, technology and, specifically, civil engineering, is needed in our schools to help meet the demand.

Orange County schools are addressing the issues by offering magnet programs that focus on science, technology and math, as well as summer programs. However, these programs alone are not sufficient to attract talented students into civil engineering and action from the civil engineering community is warranted.

ASCE OC Branch currently includes a K-12 outreach committee.  The program benefits from the participation of our members through presentations and classroom activities that help show how civil engineers affect nearly every aspect of  our day-to-day lives and connect the school work students are doing with problem solving.  Creative and interactive demonstrations and activities such as the popsicle-stick bridge competition are fun yet educational for high school students.

ASCE OC Branch is currently working on a program to visit every school in OC (eventually) with professionals who have ties to those schools either as past attendees or with children attending those schools. Several programs will be planned for this year and hopefully with many more in the years to follow.

Our goal is to make civil engineering a known and desirable career choice for K-12 students. We may not get to the point where 4-year olds say that when they grow up, they want to be civil engineers (though I do have a colleague who knew this was his calling at that early age); however, the time is now for our community to act so that civil engineering is a viable when it comes to career choices.

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