Evaluating Engineering Career Resources Available Within the Ontario High School System
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Awareness and knowledge of both engineering education programming and the engineering profession is important for students in high school because strategic course choices must be made for students to qualify for university enrolment. Strategic and informed high school course selections must be made so students will graduate with the prerequisites needed for application to a university program. This complexity may be particularly concerning for students who realize late in high school that they wish to pursue an engineering education. This research aims to provide insight into how Grade 12 students learn about post-secondary programs and career planning, and how students are supported in this learning by teachers and guidance counsellors. The students were surveyed to learn how they use resources to learn about post-secondary programs. Grade 10 Careers teachers, Grade 12 mathematics and science teachers, and guidance counsellors were interviewed on their advising experiences and their knowledge of engineering was explored. A phenomenological qualitative approach encouraged participants to describe their experiences and the meaning they associate to them. The findings show that student participants found value in the visibility of many universities and programs online, and in their interactions with resources. Teacher and guidance counsellor participants frequently associated students who presented academic strength and interest in mathematics and science, particularly physics, as those who could become engineers. These participants also described conflicting surface knowledge of engineering disciplines. Advising by teachers and guidance counsellors was found to be very focused on getting students to a post-secondary program in which they will likely succeed. While there was little discussion by the teachers and guidance counsellors in advising on the alignment between the post-secondary program and the students’ intended career path, findings from the student survey showed that students do refer to their teachers for career-related information. With the common association of strong mathematics and science student with engineering, low confidence in their engineering knowledge, and academic planning focused advising, there is little assurance that high school students currently have the knowledge needed to make an informed decision selecting an engineering education and career pathway.