01/30/2014 12:32 EST | Updated 04/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Canada's Emerging Generation of Anti-Biebers

The image of Canadian youth splashed across the front pages of every newspaper around the world this past week has been of a spoiled teenager with an inflated sense of entitlement, an oversized ego and a disregard for his responsibilities to society.

The opinion writers and talking heads are always quick to pounce on incidences like this as somehow emblematic of an entitled generation of whom too much is given and too little is expected.

As someone who meets Canada's new generation every single day I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth.

While the media fixates on the foibles of Justin Bieber, a far bigger and far more promising story has been unfolding back home.

Applications to Ontario universities last week revealed yet another huge 14 per cent across-the-board increase in young people wanting to study engineering. In our school alone we saw a remarkable 74 per cent jump.

These are young people who aren't taking the easy route to success. After all, an engineering degree isn't something to be contemplated if you're work-shy or lacking commitment.

These are the hard-working, imaginative, passionate young people who will be the leaders of Canada in the decades to come.

It's important to reflect on why more and more young people are choosing the tougher road to achievement and taking a pass on the shortcuts to quick bucks or the chimeric appeal of fame.

Quite simply, they want to make a difference. When I talk with today's students whether in Canada or on recent trips to India and South Korea, what strikes me is the desire to make meaningful change in our technology-driven world.

Their role models tend to be people known for their creativity and desire for change. Ask the growing numbers of young people applying to engineering and they'll tell you they admire those who have shown that change is possible: engineers, designers and smart entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, or Cynthia Breazeal, or Esther Dyson, or Jack Dorsey.

These are not people who are just accruing wealth for the sake of it (although they often make lots of money along the way). They are making their mark on the world in a meaningful way. To those who have grown up in a technology-driven world these innovative leaders are the change-makers in society: changing the way we communicate, changing the nature of our relationships and changing our perceptions of the possibilities life can bring.

There are numerous reasons for the surge in demand for engineering programs not just in in Canada but also in the U.S., U.K., India and China. Of course this profession offers the prospect of a good job and a decent salary in uncertain economic times. But it offers more than that. Engineering offers a chance to follow in the footsteps of the people who are making real change in our technology-driven societies.

Dig beneath the lurid headlines and there's a great story to be told. A generation of young Canadians who believe change is possible and know the hard work required to get an engineering degree will give them that chance. Our future is far more promising than we dare to imagine.


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