Also, disciplines such as mathematics or physics should be taught in context, said Stephens, not as abstract entities, even if that means having engineers teach those subjects rather than people from those disciplines. Engineering schools should involve students in projects from day one, because engineering students want to solve problems, and projects give them a way to do so while learning about partnerships, relationships, and exchanging ideas, Stephens observed. Finally, engineering schools should ensure that their students have internships between at least their sophomore and junior years. Companies like Boeing need to support such internships, said Stephens, “because we’re the ones that want the real, hands-on, practical experience.” Boeing doubled its summer engineering internships to 1,200 in 2012, and plans to support more in future years.
“In an environment where unemployment in engineering is about 2.6 percent, our worry is, Will there be enough talent to replace those who are currently providing the leading edge of technology that we need as a nation?”
Richard Stephens, Boeing Company
Some contend that few US students want to become engineers because the subject is too hard. Stephens strongly disagreed with that idea. Some engineering schools are graduating more than 80 percent of their entering first-year students within six years. These schools could serve as models for how to make engineering attractive again.