Someone recently forwarded me a link to ExxonMobil's perspectives blog on the subject of engineers in the United States. You can take a look here to see Ken Cohen's take on addressing the need to educate and connect with young people about engineering and engineers--especially the societal impact, both past and present, of our profession.
As I pointed out several years ago, there are a couple of ways to attack this problem. ExxonMobil's site, BeAnEngineer, and their associated television commercials are a fantastic 'top-down' approach to get the message out to the general public. The complementary approach is 'bottom-up,' and their material is also a great resource for engineers who want to arm themselves with facts and figures they can use to have one-to-one or one-to-few conversations with young people or non-technical colleagues and acquaintances.
If we, as engineers, don't tell our story and tell it well, then we leave ourselves open to two serious consequences: (1) our story gets told by those who view chemicals and chemical engineering as inherently 'bad,' and (2) fewer young people are interested in pursuing chemical engineering.
You know the role we play in society now, and the role we'll play in the future. Learn more about our past successes. Tell your story. Tell our story. Be a hero.