As year 12 students across the country mull over their university entrance scores, they will be faced with a big decision on what course to choose.

Some will decide to try their hand in one of the many diverse subsets of science or engineering courses, but the worrying reality is that too few students consider a technical career.

As the next generation of Australia's workforce use their smartphones and tablets and chat over social networks, this trend of declining interest in science and technology suggests the uncomfortable question: are we going to be a nation of creators of the future, or just the consumers of it?

Of course it's a great thing that Australians lead the world in the use of new technology and devices. A recent report showed Australians were the biggest adopters of tablet computers while the uptake of smartphones is the second highest in the world, after Singapore. Increased technology use brings improved productivity. But the bigger potential for economic growth can only come through becoming a nation of creators. The solution lies partly inside the humble maths and science classrooms.

Maths is a bellwether for the related disciplines of science, technology and engineering, including information technology. Yet high school enrolments in maths and science in year 12 continue to fall, and those who do still choose to study the subjects are more likely to eschew the more advanced forms. When it comes to performance, a recent report into Australia's year 4 pupils showed the nation ranked behind 17 others in maths while it was behind 21 others in science.

Clearly, more needs to be done to make science, technology, engineering and maths interesting to students - and that means making it relevant. One study from the Office of the Chief Scientist shows students don't see the real world application of these subjects. For example, of those studying science, only a third thought science was almost always relevant to their future and less than half (47 per cent) thought it almost always relevant to Australia's future. For students not studying science, just 1 per cent thought it was almost always relevant to their future while 42 per cent thought it was never relevant. This led the country's chief scientist, Ian Chubb, to ponder how many students finished the survey and then used smartphones without thinking about the science behind them.

Through the program Computer Science for High Schools (CS4HS) - which funds universities to provide professional development and training to high school teachers - we often hear from staff that it's hard enough to keep up with the latest advances in technology, let alone develop compelling classroom content for it. Another challenge is the lack of a national approach to computer science in high schools, hence the need for a national curriculum and a national approach to training.

Universities under CS4HS have begun to bridge this gap by showing teachers how they can develop classes that have students building and programming robots or showing them how they can create their own mobile app. When students begin to realise that it's this same "science" that builds Google products, and other services they use every day, these subjects seem a lot less remote.

Careers in sciences don't have a great reputation. I come across many students who show a keen interest in working for Google, but baulk at being a software engineer despite Google being an engineering company at heart. Google and the rest of the industry have a healthy demand for workers, so there's clearly a mismatch between what employers need and what future employees want to do.

Of course not everyone wants to be a software engineer, but science, technology, engineering and maths education are the building blocks to a whole range of industries, such as healthcare, finance, manufacturing, energy and resources. Many of the world's best-known entrepreneurs are engineers: just look at Google and Facebook. These skills are vital to the innovation economy and essential if we're to become a nation of creators in all areas.

So to the class of 2012, my plea: there is a difference between using a smartphone and creating an app that reaches millions of people (and the economic activity that's associated with it). There's been a lot of support behind the idea that Australia can have its own Silicon Beach, but we're going to need you - and your skills - to help build it.

Alan Noble is the engineering director for Google Australia and New Zealand.