Future innovators? Maybe, but U.S. teens could use mentors

A new survey of U.S. teens finds some encouraging signs in their beliefs about careers related to science and technology — but also finds a substantial number of the teens lack role models in those areas.

Americans sometimes express concern about the country's future capacity to innovate in science and technology. But a new survey offers at least one hopeful sign: 85% of U.S. teens surveyed recently by the Lemelson-MIT Program expressed at least some interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and 80% feel that their school has prepared them to pursue a career in one of those fields, if they choose to. One big motivator: Protecting the environment. Thirty percent of students surveyed indicated that the idea of helping and protecting the environment would most inspire them to pursue a scientific/technology-oriented career.

But the survey also highlighted some obstacles. When the teens were asked what would most discourage them from pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics the most common answer -- chosen by almost one-third of the students -- was not knowing anyone who works in those fields.

4 Comments On: Future innovators? Maybe, but U.S. teens could use mentors

  • Matthew Teal | August 13, 2011

    I agree totally, however it’s going to be rough to make this happen in the current economic environment. Due to some political agendas the government seems to not emphasize education.

    Clearly kids can benefit from mentors within these fields, especially inner city students. However, public education appears to be taking a back seat to other issues.

    Unfortunately this seems to be an issue that’s going to be left to the children’s parents/parental figures. This will inevitably keep many students in the dark about the potential options available to them.

    I hope things change for the better, but it’s hard to be optimistic given the politics that play a role in every decision made for this country.

    I’ll get off my soap box now.:-)

  • kay.lincoln | October 9, 2011

    It sounds like a great plan, but it seems to me that there are more kids who want to try this field but don’t know anyone, than working or studying young adults to guide them. Shame though, it could have been really great.

  • tryllecharlie | November 9, 2011

    It seems that mentorship is something that has gone by the wayside with some many other traditions. You use to learn a trade from for example working for a baker or a plumber, helping out in the family business. You could start on the bottom rung and earn your way up, not so anymore. There is no one willing to teach and take a chance on the youth of today.

  • Mark Simon | November 17, 2011

    Could be a case of reading a bit too much into a survey? It doesn’t really surprise me that this the most common issue cited – after all teens tend to live in their own little bubble!

    Honestly I’d be more concerned if the biggest issue was something else – like their education not preparing them.

    Overall I’d say this is a very positive result – we just need to ensure that the opportunities materialize.

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