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Leaving or continuing in the technical sector? Exploring crucial life experiences that contributed to the study and career choice of male STEM alumni

Paalman, I. (2020) Leaving or continuing in the technical sector? Exploring crucial life experiences that contributed to the study and career choice of male STEM alumni.

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Abstract:In the Netherlands there is a growing demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Although the number of STEM students in higher education is growing, still only few male alumni opt for a career in STEM. It remains unclear why such a large number of male technical professionals opt for a career outside the technical sector. Professional identity is proven to be a useful concept in trying to understand the motives for choosing for a career outside the technical sector. A professional identity is constructed by social experiences. Furthermore, the development of professional identity is a life long process. Therefore, this research aims to find out what experiences in which life phases have been crucial for STEM alumni for the choice to either leave or stay in the technical sector. In order to gain insight into their decision process, life history interviews are being conducted with eight alumni that stayed in the technical sector and five alumni that left the technical sector, all with a technical degree from a university or a university of applied sciences. In these interviews, experiences from their whole life cycle are being narrated. Based on the life histories, three patterns can be distinguished: the engineers that stayed in the technical sector, the scientists that stayed in the technical sector and the scientists that left the technical sector. The engineers are the alumni that describe having technical hobbies throughout their whole lives and describe being more practical oriented. Their experiences show that they know they want to have a technical study and career and therefore their decision process is quick and clear. These experiences have been crucial for their choice to stay in the technical sector. The scientists that stayed and left are the ones that are more theoretical and want to have a certain cognitive challenge in their study and career. Their decision process in study and career is less stable and clear than the decision process of the engineers. The patterns of the scientists that stayed and left the technical sector can be characterized as quite similar. From university period their patterns start to diverge. A lack of professional socialization activities and searching for characteristics that in their eyes cannot be found in the technical sector (i.e. wanting variety and flexibility and a fast career) could be indicated as motives for leaving the technical sector. The present study provides insights into the life experiences that contributed to the professional identity development of men in STEM.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:70 social sciences in general, 85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/81440
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