STEM Leads the Pack while Skilled Trades Fall Further Behind
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Job reports often project future in-demand jobs, but those demands may go unanswered if these careers do not align with the interests of young people – the individuals who will fill the jobs of tomorrow. Exploring, a co-ed career-development program created by the Boy Scouts of America, today released the findings of its Career Interest Survey that sheds light on what today's young people actually want to be when they grow up. The survey highlights the need for programs that help bridge young people's career interests with in-demand careers through hands-on experiences.
The survey, which was fielded in 2016 to more than 150,000 students from 8th to 12th grade, gauged interest in more than 200 career options and resulted in a top 10 list that ranged from in-demand medical positions like nurses and physicians to more aspirational positions like professional athletes, singers, and actors. The survey also revealed that childhood ambitions evolve with maturity. Middle school respondents were twice as likely as their twelfth grade counterparts to select careers in athletics and the arts, while interest in health and business careers increased as respondents entered high school. In fact, the most popular careers were in STEM-related fields with 45 percent of respondents expressing the most interest in careers such as physician, mechanical engineer, computer programmer or marine biologist, with the health care field drawing the most interest.
"As a society, we must take the question of 'what do you want to be when you grow up' and flip it on its head. It's a difficult question for many young people to answer and one they shouldn't have to answer on their own. We must show youth the vast opportunities that exist and explain how their current interests can lead to a rewarding career in the future," said Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. "Exploring creates a foundation tomorrow's leaders by allowing youth to explore their interests, discover new talents and begin to chart a path for the future."
The Exploring program offers young people, ages 10 through 20, the opportunity to spend time in the workplace and learn directly from professionals. These youth gain valuable real-world experiences to help them determine how their interests could translate into career options. Although the Career Interest Survey primarily helps match students with the workplace experiences that best match his or her interests, survey results also point to important emerging trends about America's future workforce.
Health Care is Hot
Four of the 10 most popular career options cited by survey respondents were in the health care field, an area that is expected to grow in the coming years as the U.S. population grows older. Other science and engineering fields drew interest from 18 percent of respondents, with mechanical engineer rounding out the top 10 fields garnering the most student interest. The top 10 most popular careers include:
1. Registered nurse
2. Professional athlete
5. Athletic trainer/sports medicine
8. Veterinarian/Veterinary technician
10. Mechanical engineer
Skilled Trades May Continue to Face Labor Shortages
Only 3 percent of survey respondents expressed interest in one of the skilled trades, and nearly half of those – 46 percent – are interested in automotive work, a field that may experience decreasing demand as vehicle technology advances.
Gender Gaps Persist in Numerous Fields
Female respondents expressed less interest in engineering, business and trades than men, while male students expressed less interest in healthcare, social services, and arts and humanities.
- Eighteen percent of male students chose an engineering career, compared to 3 percent of females.
- Twelve percent of male respondents expressed interest in a health career compared to 40 percent of female respondents.
- Male respondents were twice as likely to choose a business career as women (14 percent vs. 7 percent).
- Young women who took the survey were 86 percent less likely than young men to say they want a career in computing – such as programming, support, analytics, and software development.
"In addition to informing career choices, the workplace experiences provided through Exploring can help debunk some of the stereotypes and social patterns that persist today," Surbaugh said. "If we can help students see that people from all walks of life can succeed in a wide range of fields, we can open their eyes to career opportunities that they may not have previously considered."
More than 2.8 million young people have participated in the Exploring program since its founding in 1998. To learn more about how to get involved in Exploring, visit www.exploring.org.
About the Exploring Program
The Exploring program is available to youth through Learning for Life, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that provides character, leadership, and career education programs through sponsoring agencies or groups. The Exploring Program is currently offered in nearly 5,000 units nationwide, serving over 110,000 young men and women. To learn more about Exploring and experience all that this program has to offer youth, business leaders and the community, visit www.exploring.org.
About the Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America provides the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, which helps young people be "Prepared. For Life.®" The Scouting organization is composed of nearly 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and approximately 960,000 volunteers in local councils throughout the United States and its territories. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit www.scouting.org.
Survey Methodology: A total of 151,628 respondents were surveyed in 2016. Ten thousand of them completed the survey online and the balance completed the survey using a paper Scantron form. In total, the students could pick from 209 careers grouped into 12 categories.