The Engineering Workforce: Current State, Issues, and Recommendations



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The Engineering Workforce: Current State, Issues, and Recommendations

Final Report to the Assistant Director of Engineering
May 2005
Engineering Task Force Members:

Charles E. Blue

Linda G. Blevins

Patrick Carriere

Gary Gabriele

Sue Kemnitzer (Group Leader)

Vittal Rao

Galip Ulsoy


Workforce Task Group Executive Summary

Charge to the Engineering Workforce Task Group (Fall 2004)


The task group on Workforce is charged to identify important trends in the engineering workforce and education systems, especially regarding diversity and globalization.
In particular, the group will:
--provide summaries of the most current statistics on engineering degrees and enrollment, and employment trends;
--highlight latest results of studies on the engineering workforce and education;
--suggest ideas for Directorate for Engineering Actions to reach the NSF goal of producing a technologically excellent and globally competitive workforce.

Approach

Assemble key statistics

Review research literature

Draw conclusions from these

Draft recommendations guided by the research

Write report

Circulate for comments

Invite suggestions and advice

Improve the report



Conclusions

  1. Interest in engineering is declining.

  2. Women and minorities are significantly underrepresented in engineering.

  3. Broadening participation will require changes in preparation for engineering study and in the culture of engineering schools.

  4. Diversifying the professoriate proceeds slowly, leaving students without role models.

  5. The practice of engineering is undergoing significant change but the curriculum has been slow to change.

  6. “Commodity” engineering will be done anywhere; the U.S. advantage will be innovation and systems management.



Summary of Recommendations

Preparation for Engineering Study

The Engineering Curriculum

Increasing Participation in Graduate Study

Diversifying the Engineering Faculty



Specific Recommendations

-Expand the Research Experiences for Teachers program.

-Establish an Advanced Placement course in Engineering.

-Support research on how people learn engineering, especially design, creativity and innovation.

-Restructure engineering education culture and pedagogy to

--Foster multidisciplinary systems level thinking among faculty and students.

--Make social impact more central to the study of engineering.

-Expand support for Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and link more closely with graduate admissions and fellowships.

-Support networks and mentoring for graduate students.

-Develop exemplary models of training faculty to improve mentoring and advising.

-Support networks for women and minority faculty.

-Develop networks of CAREER awardees, especially to share education and research integration results.

-Establish re-entry programs to attract practicing engineers to academe, especially underrepresented minorities and women.

-Implement results of institutional transformation programs, such as ADVANCE and Model Institutions for Excellence

-Provide leadership training for engineering professors and administrators to accomplish necessary changes in culture and behavior.



Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Current State of Engineering Workforce.…………….………1

Chapter 2. Diversity in Engineering Education…….…………………… 8

Chapter 3. Future Issues in Engineering Workforce….……...………….23

Chapter 4. Conclusions, Recommendations and Actions……………….32

Bibliography………………………………………………………..……40



Chapter 1

Current State of Engineering Workforce

1.1 Introduction


The ability of this nation to provide a growing economy, strong health and human services, and a secure and safe nation depends upon a vibrant, creative, and diverse engineering and science workforce. Over the last half of the 20th Century, the United States became a world super power that was strongly connected to our position as the world leader in science and technology. The major advances of the last century in communications, health, defense, infrastructure and manufacturing were enabled through an ample and well educated science and engineering workforce. This workforce was also characterized by a blend of domestic and foreign talent that allowed us to build and maintain this leadership position.

As we move into the 21st Century, we are seeing some dramatic shifts in both technology and politics that some feel may threaten this leadership position. Technology is not just changing rapidly but the pace of change is accelerating, with many new technologies promising dramatic shifts in how goods and services will be manufactured and delivered. The changes in the political landscape with the opening up of eastern Europe and China, and the emergence of Southeast Asia and India as major economic engines for their regions, has created not only a new marketplace for goods and services, but it has also created new competitors whose major strength may be in their vast resources of human capital. These new competitors have the ability to challenge our leadership position in science and technology. All of which leads to the questions,

1. Are we producing enough new engineers to meet the future demand? What is that demand?

2. Are we producing the right kind of engineers? How will new technologies and globalization impact the ability of our engineers to remain competitive?

3. What is the impact of international talent on our engineering workforce and on engineering enrollments?

The purpose of this report was to identify important trends in the engineering workforce and education systems, especially regarding diversity and globalization. In particular, the Engineering Workforce Task Group was charged with,

• Providing summaries of the most current statistics on engineering degrees and enrollment, and employment trends

• Highlighting the latest results of studies on the engineering workforce and education,

• Suggesting ideas for Directorate for Engineering Actions to reach the NSF goal of producing a technologically excellent and globally competitive workforce.

The Workforce Task Group divided this report into three main sections: (1) the current state of the engineering workforce taking a close look at the perspective of diversity and interest in engineering, (2) issues associated with diversifying the workforce and as well as preparing them for the 21st century, and (3) recommendations for the Engineering Directorate aimed at producing a diverse and effective engineering workforce for the future.

Waiting in the wings is the current study underway by the National Academy of Engineering entitled, The Engineer of 2020: A vision of engineering in the new century is underway. This study has finished its first phase and published a report that discusses many of these issues regarding the current state of engineering education. Their findings are not repeated here. The second phase of their work, which is to outline a plan for how to implement the vision of engineering captured in the report is underway and not due to be finalized until later this year. The recommendations to be developed there will have to be reconciled with those presented here.

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