programs. These criteria could then be used to guide the development and evaluation of all lifelong learning modules in a particular field. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) should expand its role and, in collaboration with education institutions and businesses, develop mechanisms to accredit lifelong learning programs.



John Hennessey President Stanford University


Academic degrees should be only one part of engineering education. There should be dozens of ways to grow and increase one’s engineering knowledge and skill.


Teach engineers that learning is a lifelong endeavor that is not limited to the classroom.

Engineering professors must be at the forefront for setting the expectation that learning is not confined to courses related to obtaining a degree. They should include messages about the importance and necessity of lifelong learning in every undergraduate and graduate engineering course. To emphasize that formal learning can take place beyond what is taught in classes, they should include a hands-on training component in every graduate and undergraduate engineering course. ABET accreditation of engineering programs should include their contribution to lifelong learning experiences for practicing engineers.

Develop a variety of lifelong learning programs.

In addition to traditional degree-oriented courses, engineering departments at educational institutions must develop different kinds of classes, seminars, and workshops with different time demands and delivery methods. To achieve this goal, engineering deans should create academic committees devoted to developing a variety of courses for practicing engineers. Normal teaching responsibilities of engineering faculty should include such courses. Also, graduate deans and continuing education units should collaborate with engineering faculty to reimagine postbaccalaureate knowledge acquisition needs and opportunities.


Enact policies that encourage financial support for lifelong learning.

High-level politicians in both political parties have stated their commitment to keeping the United States at the front of the global technology curve. The following actions can encourage engineers to engage in lifelong learning in support of that goal: (1) Extend Section 127 of the federal tax code, (2) Grant tax credits to engineers to help cover the cost of memberships in professional societies,15 and (3) Grant tax credits to businesses—especially SMEs—that sponsor lifelong learning for their engineering employees.


15 The current tax code allows these to be deducted only as a business expense.

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