comparison, Brazil, China, and India rapidly added companies to the list. As an example, India has 48 companies listed this year, compared to 27 in 2004.

In the list of construction companies identified as global top performers, U.S. firms are few and far between. The top-performing U.S.-based construction firm, according to Forbes, is Fluor Corporation, with $16.69 billion in annual sales. Yet, Fluor sits in 21st place on the global list, followed by five French-based firms, five firms based in Spain, and those in China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Switzerland.

In all, the Forbes report listed 78 top performers in the global capital construction sector. Of those, just 13 were U.S.-based companies (Forbes, 2008). Interestingly, the Forbes report contained no listings for companies in the “Engineering” industrial category. While this author believes that this is an omission, the undeniable point of the Forbes Global 2000 is this: one of the brutal facts facing the construction and engineering industries is formidable global competition.

Competition in construction is more than just among firms. It is also a fact of life, and increasingly so, in resource availability. Many natural resources that the construction industry depends on are increasingly limited or expensive. Oil, water, copper, and most other feedstocks vital to construction are experiencing price volatility, in part driven by fundamental shifts in long-term supply and demand. Traditionally, the means, methods, and fundamental premises of construction have been based on the assumption that all required resources will be abundant.

The industry is learning that this premise is changing rapidly, with potentially severe limits to growth. Issues revolving around resource availability and various environmental stressors are ubiquitous phenomena that are appearing in all economic systems, regardless of political ideology (Pearce and Turner, 1990). What is new is the rate at which modern societies consume resources. “Humankind has consumed more aluminum, copper, iron and steel, phosphate rock, diamonds, sulfur, coal, oil, natural gas, and even sand and gravel during the past century than all earlier centuries together. Moreover, the pace continues to accelerate, so that today the world annually produces and consumes nearly all mineral commodities at record rates” (Tilton, 2002).

Those of us in the engineering and construction industries must be prepared with a broader and deeper vision that embraces the challenges and complexities of our modern world. In the following sections of this paper, the author discusses the following topics:

  • How the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) views the global market and the civil engineer of 2025.

  • How ASCE and other professional associations are modifying education and early-work experiences to build stronger, better-prepared professionals.

  • How professional organizations and trade associations are striving to recruit young people into careers in engineering and construction.

  • How to involve construction professionals.

VISION FOR THE FUTURE1

In June 2006, under the leadership of ASCE, a diverse group of civil engineering and other leaders, including international participants, gathered to articulate an aspirational global vision for the future of civil engineering at the Summit on the Future of the Civil Engineering Profession in 2025. Summit participants envisioned a different world for civil engineers in 2025. An ever-increasing global population that is shifting even more to urban areas will require widespread adoption of sustainability. Demands for energy, transportation, drinking water, clean air, and safe waste disposal will drive

1

Please note that much of the material in the section entitled “Vision for the Future” has been extracted from The Vision of Civil Engineering in 2025 (ASCE, 2007).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement