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4 CONCLUSIONS The United States faces several national problems-such as unprecedented technological change and rapid transfer of information-that many people believe are approaching crisis levels and whose solutions will require an even more adaptable engineering work force. Evidence on the adequacy of existing mechanisms to facilitate adaptability is not sufficient to guide the development of policy. Emphasizing mobility as a key aspect of adaptability minimizes the benefits derived by society from engineers who contribute-not by moving and developing new products- but by staying in one place and making incremental improvements in existing products and processes. In the context of nonmobility, adaptability is manifest by being open to new ideas about and new techniques for improving existing products and their production. This "cyclic development" of successive iterations is a competitive process carried out by product engineers to refine the product, customize it for more and more consumer segments, make it more reliable, or get it to market more cheaply.40 If the definition of "adaptability" encompasses the ability to transform new scientific and technological knowledge into product and process applications, then adaptability improves a nation's competitive advantage in the global marketplace not only by enhancing the production of snore engineers but also by facilitating the production of more versatile engineers who constantly seek improvements in products and processes. Adaptability is facilitated-or impeded-by the way in which engineers are supervised and managed. Further research is needed on the aspects of daily on-thejob activities that facilitate and impede adaptability, including the ways in which engineers solve problems and the allocation of project assignments. Moreover, data on demonstrations and pilot projects undertaken by industry, academe, and the professional engineering associations need to be 40Ralph E. Gomory, Op. Cit. 29
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collected and analyzed to increase our understanding of how to enhance adaptability in the engineering work force. The issues of education and paining are always with us: scores of committees have produced recommendations for education reform at ah levels. One of the most widely quoted was A Nation atRisk, which focused on grades K-12.41 One of the most thorough treatments of eng~neenng education is the Haddad report, which includes separate volumes on undergraduate engineering education, engineering graduate education and research, and continuing or lifelong engineering education.42 Before embarking on additional ~ni~aanves, it would be beneficial to find out whether recommendations from previous studies were implemented, and win what results. In the committee's view, by exploring adaptability now, the NAE is on a track that is both mnely and necessary. 4iNanonal Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, a report to the nation and the Secretary of Education, Washington, D.C.: The Commission, 1983. 42Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer, 1985b. This report was prepared under the guidance of the Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer, chaired by Jerkier A. Haddad. 30