should be “preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”5

The National Academy’s report The Engineer of 2020 calls for engineers to expand their learning over their lifetime.6 Our nation’s competitiveness and growth in a global economy hinge fundamentally on its ability to keep its STEM workforce at the technological forefront.

Despite many excellent degree programs and other educational opportunities for engineers in the United States, however, the current infrastructure for engineering education cannot meet the needs of the engineer of 2020.


The need to improve the lifelong learning infrastructure for engineers has been addressed outside the United States.

In 2004, the European Commission proposed a Decision of the European Parliament and Council to establish an integrated action agenda called the Lifelong Learning Programme. The initiative supports lifelong learning through transnational learning mobility and cooperation projects aiming at modernizing education and training systems across the 31 participating European countries. In addition, as part of the Lisbon Strategy,7 the European Union (EU) proposed an initiative aimed at improving workers’ qualifications based on an analysis of labor market trends up to 2020. EU members fulfill the Programme’s objectives in several ways. For example, in Finland, the Universities Act was enacted in 2009 mandating that lifelong learning be part of a university’s mission. A 1971 French law set up the country’s institutional training system, requiring employers to spend at least 1.6 percent of their wage bill on employee training or pay the equivalent in taxes. A follow-up law in 2004 establishes, in principle, an individual’s right to training in the form of a 20-hour credit per year outside the workplace.8

In Asia, most wealthy countries promote lifelong learning for engineers.9 South Korea and Japan, for example, have introduced explicit laws and legis-


5 National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Goddard’s Innovative Partnerships Program Office; Accomplishments 2008. Available online at

6 National Academy of Engineering. 2004. The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century. Washington: National Academies Press. Available online at

7 Put forward by the Lisbon Special European Council in March 2000; available online at

8 Anni Weiler. Impact of training on people’s employability. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Ireland. 20 June 2005.

9 Soonghee Han. 2001. Creating systems for lifelong learning in Asia. Asia Pacific Education Review 2(2): 90.

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