Survey finds teenage boys losing interest in STEM careers

A new survey found that interest in STEM subjects has sharply dropped among teens, particularly among boys.

Now, programs are trying to spark new interest in the fields.

As part of the STEM program at Apple Valley High School, Tai Henrichs is able to pursue his love of computers. But, ultimately, he wants a career in computer science in the field of artificial intelligence.

Henrichs said he’ll be happy “as long as I have a decent living, it seems fun and has my interest in making things.”

But interest in STEM careers among boys Henrichs' age may be falling off.

According to a study by Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young, 24 percent of teen boys want a STEM career. Last year, that number was 36 percent.

Teen girls, however, showed the same level of interest at 11 percent both years.

“The stereotype is white males, and kids don't see themselves in those careers. Usually when someone in a STEM career is portrayed on a show, they are portrayed as nerdy or geeky and that stereotype persists,” said Jim Lynch, manager of the E3 STEM program at Apple Valley.

The E3 program uses field trips, visits from STEM professionals and even a STEM fair to get students interested in those careers.

The program manager said if companies can't find workers in those fields, the economic consequences could be dire.

“We have been one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and if we aren't drawing young people into those careers, I don't know how we are going to be an economic leader in the world anymore,” Lynch said.

Henrichs plans to take college-level computer science courses next year so he can get a jump on his future.

“I'll have to keep my options open if something doesn't work out, but something in STEM even if it’s not specifically what I'm planning on going into,” he said.