Leading the way to a prosperous future?

September 20, 2013
By: Dan Davis

My son’s high school had its annual Parent Night on Wednesday. Parents actually get to experience the student’s schedule, albeit in a much abbreviated time frame. (Classes lasted only eight minutes.) It’s a great way to meet the teachers and get the real scoop on what may be happening in the classroom—much more than the “not much” you get when you ask the 15-year-old what happened at school that day.

This year my wife and I coaxed our sophomore son to take Introduction to Engineering, despite his defense that he has no plans to become an engineer. Truthfully, does any teenager know what he or she wants to do as an adult? There was not a huge demand for magicians in the job market 30 years ago, but my parents really didn’t do much to dissuade me from that possible career path. (Poor hand-eye coordination and a lack of practice probably doomed that career choice.)

But we were able to sell him on the idea that he needs to be exposed to all kinds of possibilities, including engineering. On the other hand, we were sold on the earning potential of those that follow up on engineering degrees. According to the 2013-2014 Payscale College Salary Report, engineering careers dominate the top 10 career paths with the highest starting median pay. It would be nice to have a career that allowed the student to pay back loans, instead of falling behind on them.

The Introduction to Engineering teacher reaffirmed out thoughts. The course is based on Project Lead the Way, a provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum to schools. Because the Project Lead the Way organization is committed to expanding interest in STEM careers, not just dole out educational guidelines, it also provides a full-scale marketing blitz to support its efforts. In short, the organization makes it clear that STEM students achieve higher levels of academic success than their peers enrolled in non-STEM classes.

From the student standpoint, my son said he enjoys the class, even if he is struggling with the early sketching assignments. (The poor hand-eye coordination apparently is genetic.) At the very least, he’s being challenged with a new course that doesn’t rely simply on the traditional lecture-and-taking-notes model. He may not land one of those lucrative engineering careers, but he may be on a career path that he never knew existed. It might even lead to a job in manufacturing.

I wonder how many students follow that winding kind of path.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281