By Nicole Yates

What impact do NSBE and other like organizations have on their members? A new study shows that high school students participating in career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) and activities have clearer career paths. In partnership with Skills USA and the Educational Research Center of America, the Manufacturing Institute completed a study, “Attracting the Next Generation Workforce,” which focused on the vocational interests of students in career and technical education (CTE) courses. The key findings, although specific to students taking CTE courses, can also shed light on participants in NSBE activities.

The first question the study covers pertains to factors that influence students’ career choices. The overwhelming majority of CTSO participants cite their own experiences as the most important factor, above parental advice, classes, social media and school counselor input. This finding underscores the importance of providing students with as much exposure to engineering as possible, both in and out of school. Although NSBE is not classified as a CTSO, it does similarly provide students with extracurricular technical experiences that can influence their future career choices. NSBE’s goal of graduating 10,000 Black Engineers annually by 2025 depends on exposure of pre-college students to engineering and will only be successful if we as an organization can expand our reach.

Other findings support the importance of participation in vocation-focused extracurricular activities: researchers found that nearly two-thirds of students participating in CTSOs say their career paths are clearer as a result, compared with a little more than one-third of non-CTSO students. Within NSBE, students enter a pipeline that directs them toward engineering degrees and careers at each stage. Thus, we can expect that our high school members also envision their career plans with more clarity than their non-NSBE member counterparts do. It is important to note that students in CTE courses can matriculate directly into the workforce after high school. The vast majority of engineers need a college education at minimum, but the same logic applies to college degrees: if the experiences a student had in high school solidify her choice to become an engineer, she will begin college with that end in mind.

Another significant measure in this study asked students about their experiences with prospective future employers: a potentially critical factor in career choices. Traditional experiences with future employers include internships, career fairs and mentorship initiatives. However, less than 10 percent of participants reported having done internships, which may be surprising, since internships are commonly touted as excellent career development experiences with mutual benefits to employers and future employees. The need for more involvement from companies becomes clear here. NSBE students may engage with corporate representatives at career fairs twice per year, but does that constitute their only point of contact? With more participation in chapter activities, companies can accomplish the dual goals of promoting their brands and recruiting more of the best and brightest.

At the conclusion of the study, the authors make recommendations that encourage alignment of career-focused programs and services. Based on those, I offer four recommendations to NSBE in pursuit of the 2025 goal:

WHAT IMPACT DO NSBE AND OTHER LIKE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE ON THEIR MEMBERS? A NEW STUDY SHOWS THAT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN CAREER AND TECHNICAL STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS (CTSOS) AND ACTIVITIES HAVE CLEARER CAREER PATHS.

  1. Expand the reach of NSBE by creating and supporting new chapters, strengthening existing chapters and enriching programming for chapters.
  2. Explore new constituencies by raising awareness of NSBE in diverse communities.
  3. Partner with local and national businesses to solicit guest speakers for chapter events.
  4. Provide robust resources for engineers looking to obtain licenses in their field.

By aligning NSBE’s activities on the local, regional and national levels, the organization can continue to expose more pre-college students to engineering and fuel the workforce pipeline. Success in NSBE’s mission depends on each of us, from Professionals; corporate, government and nonprofit partners; and college students who actively participate in NSBE Jr. chapter activities to the parents who advocate for chapters in their children’s schools. The next generation of engineers is being developed, and their experiences matter.

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