February 16-22 is National Engineering Week in the United States. It’s also International Flirting Week, but you’re probably as likely to have heard of one as you are the other–and that’s a problem. But it’s one that the National Society of Professional Engineers and ABB alike seek to address.
According to the NSPE’s web site, EWeek is “dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.”
At ABB we have a considerable amount of skin in the game. We employ tens of thousands of engineers across a variety of disciplines, and we face the same demographic shift that many of our customers do. In a nutshell, we need more young engineers coming into the workforce. That’s why we’ve adopted a “pre-K to post doc” strategy in the US to support technical education at all levels.
For a long time, ABB has funded scholarships and research at universities but that support only goes to students who have already chosen to pursue engineering. To get more students, particularly female students, into the engineering pipeline, we have to reach them earlier—much earlier.
So, ABB in recent years has extended its support to include electrical equipment for technical community colleges, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in middle schools, and a major new exhibit at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Kid Grid” will introduce children as young as three to technical concepts in a fun hands-on environment, and perhaps plant a seed of interest that might one day result in a career in engineering.
The key is to demystify engineering, to remove the stigma of being “too hard” or—worse still—“too boring” and make it as viable as business or biology for a young person contemplating their future career Unfortunately, there isn’t much ABB or any other organization can do directly to alter certain engineering stereotypes. Maybe that’s why National Engineering Week just happens to fall on the same dates as International Flirting Week. Coincidence?