Engineering Profession Needs a Message Makeover

June 30, 2008
New report outlines communication strategy to improve public understanding and attract more to career in engineering.

There are good ways and better ways to encourage young people to consider a career in engineering. A new report from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) says that emphasizing how an engineering career provides an opportunity to change the world is more likely to attract young people than emphasizing the challenge of math and science. In fact, the four messages that tested best are:

  • Engineers make a world of difference.
  • Engineers are creative problem-solvers.
  • Engineers help shape the future.
  • Engineering is essential to our health, happiness and safety.

The report, "Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering," bases its recommendations on both qualitative and quantitative research, including an online survey of 3,600 people, the NAE said. The study collected data on different messages and taglines or slogans. The survey also included a large number of African Americans and Hispanics, two groups the academy says are underrepresented in engineering schools and careers.

The report recommends the engineering community start using the messages in a coordinated communications strategy. "Improving public understanding of engineering will enable people to make more informed decisions about technology, encourage students to consider engineering careers, and ultimately sustain the U.S. capacity for technological innovation," says Don Giddens, dean of engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and chair of the committee that wrote the report.

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