Selling engineering : a Role Model Program
The decline of the recruitment of students into engineering programs in Australia has been a progressive phenomenon for many years. Aside from the reduction in numbers there is also a perception that the preparedness of entrants has declined. There have been initiatives from the professional engineering body, Engineers Australia, industry groups, employers and educational institutions and private interested parties to try to address and reverse this trend. To do so requires encouragement for, and the commitment of, secondary students to study mathematics and the sciences with fulfilling engineering careers as a goal. The engineering faculty at Central Queensland University (CQU) in the early 1990’s established an Engineering Role Model Program that utilised current engineering students to visit local secondary schools and ‘market’ and ‘sell’ engineering as a profession and also specifically, the engineering programs of CQU. Students were recruited to be Role Models, auditioned and then trained to ‘spread the word’ on the potential and attractiveness of engineering as a career and CQU as a quality provider of engineering education. Role Models were encouraged and expected to ‘get personal’ and give their personal stories of where they came from, their prior and current perception of engineering careers and study, and develop a rapport with the secondary students The initial Role Modelprogram in the mid 1990s was successful and resulted in increased student numbers, but with the departure of key staff and a re-alignment of faculty priorities was discontinued by the late 1990’s. It was re-established in 2001 resulting in an increase in student recruitment numbers of 63% the following year, but again due to competing priorities was allowed to fall away with insufficient resourcing. It was again undertaken, with less than ideal timing, in 2004 resulting in an increase of 33% in CQU Bachelor of Engineering new enrolments, defying the national downward trend. With the recognition of the Role Model program’s importance in attracting higher numbers of quality students, its support and reinvigoration is a priority for the faculty for 2005 on.