Factors influencing career choice of learners in engineering : a case of a selected university of technology in South Africa
A steady decline in student enrolment at the Tshwane University of Technology’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (TUTFEBE) was seen in recent years. Small numbers of South African pupils have been matriculating with Mathematics as a subject, and most of them have been underperforming. Since there has been no scientific evidence to date on which recruitment and guidance efforts work best for attracting quality learners for courses in engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), this study was conducted to identify the factors that influence learners’ choice of engineering as a career. This information could assist in the design of an evidence-based recruitment and marketing model. A single-case explanatory study design was used for this research, since it focused on the TUTFEBE. A quantitative and qualitative study was completed by means of inputs from first-year extended curriculum engineering programme students. The data was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Study of Social Sciences (SPSS). By studying the qualitative data from more than one viewpoint, the quantitative findings were verified and triangulated. The influences that played a role in learners’ career choices were identified. Thematic clusters emerged as stimulation or creation of an awareness of or interest in engineering, the influences of different people on learners’ career choices, relevant exposure to careers in engineering, the huge impact of Maths and Science teachers on learners’ career decision-making, method of teaching, employability and the image and reputation of an institution. It became evident that engineering faculties themselves need to assume responsibility for the recruitment of their students. Copying seems to be the main coping strategy in most institutions regarding marketing and recruitment engagements. Although many of TUTFEBE’s current marketing and recruitment actions were on par with the rest of the world, alternative actions were identified and implemented in the model. Informed consent in written format for both the quantitative and qualitative studies was obtained from the subjects after they had been informed what the purpose, risks and benefits were and which procedures would be implemented to ensure confidentiality. The subjects were informed of their right to withdraw at any stage, without any penalty or disadvantage, and were assured that withdrawal would in no way influence their continued relationship with the researcher or their academic progress at TUT.