This week I want to know how valuable you feel work experience is for new engineers, and whether trying your hand at some "ideological" engineering might offer a boost to both your job prospects and morale.
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"We have done a miserable job, by and large, of explaining just how engineering is essential and can change the world," said National Academy of Engineering (NAE) chief Charles Vest, in a recent interview in USA Today.
Vest and others are now recommending that young engineers spend less time in a classroom and more time in the field tackling real-world problems like delivering energy, food, clean air and water to the world's billions.
"This is an idealistic generation, despite everything going on in the economy, and they want to help people," Vest said. "We have to get them out of the lecture hall and show them how engineers do just that," he added.
Currently, just 4.5 percent of U.S. college graduates are engineers, with Europe posting a slightly higher 12 percent and Asia turning out 21 percent.
The NAE believes it could boost the number of engineering graduates by leveraging Generation Y’s ideology, and has launched the Grand Challenges Scholars Program to appeal to the spirit of today’s youth.
The program, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to prepare students to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. It identifies 14 subject areas requiring immediate engineering attention, ranging from "preventing nuclear terror" to "reverse-engineering the human brain."
The project’s goals are defined as "enhancing student interest in engineering and science, increasing the visibility and importance of engineering and science to society, underscoring the importance of recognizing that engineering education must be coupled to policy/business/law and must be student-focused."
The NAE is also hoping that the program will enhance student interest in engineering, science, and technology entrepreneurship while fomenting future collaborations of interested scientists, engineers, policy makers and researchers to successfully address complex societal issues.
What do you think, readers? Will the lure of ideology attract the next generation’s brightest minds to the profession? Would this type of program prove an enticing sabbatical option for more seasoned engineers? And is it enough? Let us know, we love hearing from you.
It sounds as though you are presuming what the students' ideology is. None of your ideas sounds appealing to me nor would they to many of the young people I know. Helping people is not a universal ideal.
What needs to happen to get more interest in engineering is to remove ideology so the students can follow their own.
Also, reform primary education back to the basics (reading, writing, and math). Engineering would be less daunting if the students were better qualified coming out of high school.
Maybe the word should be altruistic - devoting oneself to a worthy cause. Maybe there should be an engineering peace corp. But I don't think you are going to get too many people to put up with the rigors of eng school for 4-5 years just to be a nice guy (or gal). Medical Drs go thru quite an lengthy ordeal until they can actually practice, but they know in the long run they will be well rewarded.
The IT world has customized easily these days as new public networking application and elements came out. This natural success should be expected, but many IT professionals missed the vessel, so to talk.
Charles, you are on to something here but I would say that what is too idealogical is this discussion. Playing the role as this forum's cynic can be tiring but it's appropraite here. All one needs to know about what is going on here is in this sentence:
"The program, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to prepare students to solve the Grand Challenges facing society."
I would encourage the forum to mull over that specific, telling statement and ask the appropriate questions thereof.
These are excellent points from one of the venerable amongst us, Torfa. I really appreciate the long-view perspective and agree that the lasting effect of WW2 on our economy can't be understated. And if I may add some levity - you might like this one which came from a good friend and fellow EE while summing up our Cold War success: "Our German scientists were better then their German scientists".
I think this may be a case of poor choice of a word: "ideological". It sounds like what they're talking about is showing people that engineering solves human problems, in other words they're explaining the definition of engineering. That has nothing to do with an ideology. Ideology deals with questions like to what extent property rights should be respected. Engineering is a different discipline from that.
I'm with Bert, Steve and JonD. For the past decade or so, I have been of the opinion that we are asking the wrong question of the wrong end of the food chain. The question isn't why young people aren't interested in science and engineering; clearly humans are interested in these things. The question should be why companies can't get people to have careers in these areas.
The answers are really quite simple: the pay is mediocre, the jobs are unstable, they don't get a lot of respect (at the companies or in general) and, increasingly, they don't get a chance to do anything except shuffle paper.
Seems like an awful lot of work for not a lot of reward.
Let me elaborate (my version) on needs driven engineering. I have always fully believed that what got us out of the great depression was the technology developed during WW2. We initially got in over our heads, but this nation got its act together. We met the need and kicked butt. After the war there was much new technology just waiting to be commercialized. The gov paid the vets to go to school, and made money available to entrepreneurs. The best and longest economic growth in this country's history took place for the next 20-30 years. The economists may still be scratching their heads about it. It is not in their texts. But the one big difference from today - we had it all to ourselves.
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