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OCR for page 11
WORKSHOP ON NATIONAL NEEDS AND TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE: FOSTERING FLEXIBILITY IN THE ENGINEERING WORK FORCE Because industry is a major employer of engineers, the committee wanted to have industry representation at this workshop. To achieve this goal, a special effort was made to ensure that approximately 20 percent of the 42 workshop attendees came from industry.9 Workshop participants were asked to use their professional experiences as a basis for addressing the following questions: Is adaptability a problem for the United States' engineering work force? Is the engineering work force flexible enough? In what ways is the engineering work force not flexible enough? What kinds of interventions might be necessary right away to foster flexibility in the eng~neenng work force and by which institutions industry, academe, governments professional societies? To maximize the opportunity for dialogue, workshop participants spent most of the day in one of three discussion groups: technological change; changing national priorities; and education and training. The technological change group focused on how firms deploy their engineering work force to meet changes in demand for engineering skills resulting - from changing technologies. This group looked at differences in responses between emerging and declining technologies (defined as technologies experiencing a temporary decline in demand, not technologies going out of existence).l The changing national priorities group focused on the impact of changes in national priorities on the need for an adaptable engineering work force. For discussion purposes, national priorities included 9This total includes staff and the study committee. OLeggon, op. Cit. 11

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both defense and nondefense priorities. Nondefense issues included the impact of competitiveness and such environmental concerns as the greenhouse effect and global warming. One major issue considered was the impact on adaptability of a reduction in defense spending. The education and training group addressed two issues: how to produce flexible, adaptable engineers and now to reduce tne Degree or m~smaccn oerween . , - ------on cam r ~ ~ . _ ~1~ the competencies required in industry and the competencies of both new and experienced engineers. At the start of the workshop, participants were given their group assignments. Each group had a committee member to lead the discussion and a rapporteur to record key ideas. At the end of the day, everyone reconvened to hear the group leaders or rapporteurs summarize the groups' major ideas, points of consensus, findings, and conclusions. Although this format was devised as a way to focus on the major aspects of adaptability that the committee identified, the committee realized that each group would discuss all three topics because they seem to be such inextricably intertwined components of "adaptability." It is noteworthy that despite different starting points and foci. He three groups converged on engineering education-particularly undergraduate and continuing or lifelong education-as a key factor in creating and maintaining an adaptable engineering work force. 12 - car - .~