Click for next page ( 112


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 111
6 Engineering~s Future: Requirements for a Changing Environment The Year 2000: What Will the Engineering Environment Be Like' Looking forward to the year 2000 {or to any future year), the commit- tee believes that it is the goal of those who are responsible for the education of engineers and the organization of engineering's effort to ensure that economically or socially beneficial products or services are not delayed or denied to society because of an inadequate engineering establishment in the United States. Likely Characteristics One way perhaps the best way to gauge the means and mecha- nisms by which engineers are educated and utilized is to begin by identifying likely general differences between the United States of today and the United States in the year 2000. We may then consider how the existing means and mechanisms can be adjusted to ensure that the engineering community will provide effective, efficient support for such likely and evolutionary changes. Assuming that there is no global conflagration during the next 15 years, the committee believes that the United States of 2000 will very likely be characterized in the following ways: The time horizons over which U.S. industry seeks to maximize its profits will likely be longer than those of today. 111

OCR for page 111
112 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE While suppliers of capital will often take a longer view of the performance of businessmen in allocating financial resources, there will nevertheless be significant shortages of capital for at least some industries and firms. The United States will increasingly be an integral part of a truly global economy, with international trade as a growing component of United States economic activity. Generally increased interindustry and intraindustry competition will characterize this global economy. Because of developments in defense, energy, space, and other areas, government demand for engineering goods and services {both direct and indirect) will increase significantly in proportion to other sources of demand. Whether or not energy materials remain relatively scarce, the economy of 2000 and beyond! will face raw materials shortages {in some cases chronic shortages). Scientific discoveries and technology development will continue to occur at a rapid rate. This process will make possible the seminal, revolutionary advances that create new industries; it will also give engineers a larger menu of technical tools and options for existing tasks. At the same time the number of engineering tasks that do not require cutting-edge engineering will continue to increase as evi- denced by the growing need to maintain, rehabilitate, and operate the nation's aging infrastructure. Before elaborating upon the impacts and implications of the forego- ing likely differences between 1985 and 2000, it is important to reiter- ate that they have been postulated here to permit us to arrive at judgments concerning the education and utilization of engineers in the United States. Other changes may prove to be equally important; nor will all of those (lescribed necessarily be seen. However, if the available means and mechanisms for educating engineers and allocating their services can cope satisfactorily with the changes outlined, they should be capable of dealing with virtually anything the future has in store for the United States. This assertion is predicated on the assumption that many of the recommendations in this report have been heeded and implemented. That is, because of the focus on engineering science and fundamentals, the educational system will have produced thoughtful, flexible engi- neering talent. The managers of both government and private organiza- tions will fully understand that engineering effectiveness depends to a great extent on how well the engineering effort is managed. As a result,

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 113 they will have devised means and mechanisms for organizing engineer- ing resources in such a way as to meet, with acceptable efficiency, the demands placed upon the engineering community. Impacts andImp~ications In the United States of the mid-1980s, the time horizons of managers in most American companies and industries are short because of the pressure for quarter-to-quarter earnings improvements emanating from institutional investors and corporate stockholders. Because this situation does grievous Tong-term harm to the United States espe- cially in markets where much of the competition is from abroad it is reasonable to expect that a more rational approach will emerge, either through government action or through changed attitudes on the part of investors or both. Hence, the time horizons of managers can be expected to lengthen substantially. The implications for engineering are significant. For example, there will be increasing emphasis on capital-intensive solutions to produc- tion problems. Product quality can be improved as investments in plant and equipment as well as in the education and training of employ- ees become not only tolerable but required. In turn, the demand for technology-intensive capital goods will be greater, and the range of engineering disciplines required to meet that demand will certainly be very broad. However, the demand will not be uniform across the spec- trum of engineering at any point in time. Consequently, engineers capable of working in adjacent disciplines will function better than those who are more narrowly educated. Public/private sector versatility Similarly, the further growth of government demand for engineering goods and services will create a need and an advantage for engineers who are capable of functioning in both the public and private sectors. A basic requirement here is that such engineers must understand the different management objectives of these two sectors. Private-sector objectives are driven by competitive markets, while public-sector objectives are driven by political and public concerns. Thus engineers in each sector place different degrees of emphasis on the common engineering concerns for innovation, cost containment, pro- ductivity, safety, consumer satisfaction, and protection of the environ- ment {Report of the Pane} on Engineering Interactions With Society) . The committee concludes that sensitizing students to these basic

OCR for page 111
114 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE differences in the servicing of the public and private sector is of consid- erable importance. If engineers know and can recognize the differences, regardless of the occupational environment in which they find them- selves, they will be able to understand how and why approaches differ. In this way they will be much better able to move between public- sector and private-sector career opportunities. In addition, better understanding by engineers in each sector of the basic objectives of the other sector will yield better, more economical products and services in both sectors. Shortages of resources. Throughout most of the history of engi- neering in the United States, engineers have been educated and ori- ented to deal with situations characterized by a sufficiency, if not a surplus, of resources for use in the task at hand. Since the energy crisis of 1973, there have been modest attempts to introduce into engineering curricula materials that suggest engineers may have to face shortages of one resource or another. Generally, the emphasis in this regard has been on energy. Since it is likely that both spot and chronic shortages of materials of various kinds will increasingly characterize the economy of the future, it is increasingly important for both engineering educa- tion and practice to reflect that fact. Students will need to learn how to deal with shortages in resources so that they may take explicit account of them when performing engineering functions in the economy. Of all the resources that will periodically be scarce in the future, none can be so predictably forecast as shortages related to capital to finan- cial resources. Expensive capital (i.e., capital in short supply) will severely affect building and construction, venture capital availability {and thus the number of start-ups), and modernization and expansion efforts. Since capital constraints will be a very real aspect of the opera- tional environment of the future, it will be essential for students to understand the impact of these constraints on planning and design. G1oba! economy. It is not enough for engineers to be trained and employed in such a wary that only U.S. markets and conditions are taken into account. Inevitably, the United States must become increas- ingly bound up in the world economy. This means that the practice of engineering will have to take account of what foreign markets require and will accept. {An obvious example is the growing importance of -standards and interchangeability on a worldwide basis. ~ It also means that international competition between the engineering work forces of different countries will intensify. This is not a subject that the commit

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 115 tee was able to examine in detail, although it clearly has major implica- tions for the future. ~ One important implication of the global economy is that it requires sensitivity to regional and cultural differences and their impact on worldwide demand for engineering goods and services. Engineers will also need to appreciate the financial, political, and security forces at play internationally. The nontechnical components of engineering education ought to include exposure to these aspects of contemporary . . engmeermg. In this context, communication among U.S. engineers and engineer- ing-based companies is crucial if the United States is to maximize the net benefits it derives from participation in international trade and in other aspects of the global economy. The engineering community ought to be prepared to promote open communication of this kind, especially with regard to the goods and services that the world {and not merely the United States) requires and is prepared to accept. Rapid scientific and technological change Science and technology have been invaluable contributors to the expansion and success of the U. S. economy. This will be no less true in the foreseeable future than in the past. Here again, the implications for engineering education and utilization are very great. Indeed, engineering practice has already been undergoing a revolution over the past several years. New engineering tools based on the computer, such as computer-aided design and com- puter-based workstations, are part of this revolutionary change. New methods such as simulation and modeling are driving engineering activity in the direction of greater abstraction more mathematical analysis, less experimentation. There is no apparent slowdown in this revolution in practice. In fact, it will continue to accelerate, and will gain further impetus from addi- tional progress in such technologies as composite materials, expert systems, and supercomputers. With their creative and productive capa- bilities greatly enhanced through the use of such tools and methods, engineers in every discipline will be able to turn increasingly from the ~ Differences in the roles and responsibilities of engineers in different countries, as well as a lack of adequate data, make direct comparisons difficult. Some sources of reference in this area are Mintzes, 1982; Mintzes and Tash, 1984; National Research Council, 1984; National Science Board, 1983; Office of Technology Assessment, 1983; Office of Technology Assessment, 1984; and Secretary of State for Industry, 1980.

OCR for page 111
116 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE mechanical to the conceptual. Many of them will be less involved in the performance of conventional or routine engineering work and more involved in the formulation of ideas, in making choices. Consequently, an increasingly important element of engineering education will be to teach engineers to approach problems-that is, how to ask the right questions and know the dimensions of responsive answers even when the details of a project are entirely new with regarc} to materials or processes, environmental issues, or markets. The options and opportunities based in changing scientific and tech- nological possibilities are vast. Therefore, engineers need to be well rounded in science and increasingly knowledgeable about scientific advances that have promise for supporting engineers facing specific, related project responsibilities and objectives. Engineers should also be equipped to play a substantial role in the various processes of techno- logical innovation that are essential to the well being of the United States, both in civil and military contexts. Engineers who understand and appreciate the scientific and technological underpinnings of the products and processes with which they are involved can participate to the utmost in innovation processes, especially if they have also been educated in the fundamentals of innovation. Because of its focus on research, engineering doctoral study is at present one of the best ways to acquire a strong orientation toward scientific and technological innovation. The Ph.D. will continue to be valuable, both to the profession and to the individual degree holder. In the short term, there will be a great need for more of the best engineer- ing students to obtain the doctoral degree and become engineering professors. Given the expected increase in emphasis on research and innovation in most industries, in the long term it will be beneficial for the nation as a whole if more United States residents of the highest academic caliber choose to continue on for the Ph.D. Notwithstanding the expansion of scientific discoveries and techno- Togical possibilities, society will continue to require substantial even growing-engineering services of a less advanced nature. This is espe- cially apparent with regard to the expanding need to maintain the aging plant and equipment fount! in both the public and private sectors. Need for economic awareness. Despite the anticipated involve- ment of government in the U.S. economy, in the private sector domes- tically, and in international trade generally, heightened competition on both the interindustry and intraindustry levels can be safely projected. This implies that engineers must establish and maintain great sensitiv

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 117 ity to the economic aspects of engineering; these cannot be treated as subordinate issues. To do so would jeopardize the usefulness and value of individual engineers; it would also produce engineering results that do not serve the interests of the U.S. economy to the extent that they can and should. Means and Mechanisms for Adapting Successfully What is needec} to enable the engineering community to adapt to these likely future conditions (still assuming that the ability to cope with those conditions implies an ability to cope with any likely future)? The foregoing section as well as earlier sections have identified a num- ber of different characteristics and strengths the engineering commu- nity must acquire to ensure that the United States maintains its relative position in the world and that engineering continues to meet the nation's needs. Many of these requirements relate to the kind of education that engineers receive before entering practice. Others relate to their subsequent responsibilities as professional men and women. They are drawn together here from various sections of the report in order to bring into clearer focus the range of requirements that the engineering community will need to address effectively if it is to meet the demands that the future will place upon it. Curriculum Requirements Broadengineeringeducation. Of foremost importance is the ability to impart a strong, diversified engineering education one incorporat- ing depth of specialization as well as breadth, with a strong grounding in the fundamentals. To the extent that there has been movement toward the concept of basic engineering and general education, fol- lowed by specific study in the engineering field, the committee encour- ages that trend. Dual-degree and other alternative curricula should be examined to see whether they can expand the benefits of this approach. Stronger nontechnical education. Related to the broader engineer- ing education urged by the committee is the need for better general education of engineers. Exposure to course work in the humanities, arts, and social sciences over an extended period of time {i.e., beyond just the freshman and sophomore years) offers many advantages in molding the contemporary engineer. Among the most tangible of these is an improved facility for communication, both written and oral. Sev

OCR for page 111
118 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE eral recent authoritative reports have stressed the importance of the humanities, in particular, in shaping a young man's or woman's judg- ment and system of values {see, for example, Bennett, 1984~. Greater exposure to the world of ideas in general renders an engineer better equipped to function on an equal footing, both professionally and socially, with corporate peers and managers of varied educational back- grounds. In the real world of the workplace, such fluency is important in enabling engineers to represent effectively the interests, needs, and objectives of the engineering department within the organization. Finally, education of this type prepares an engineer to better anticipate, understand, and adapt to the new and changing conditions whether they be social, economic, cultural, or political that will affect tech- nology development in the global marketplace of the future. Exposure to computer technology. It is certain that the computer will become pervasive in the practice of engineering, both as a too! for performing the engineering job itself {e.g., in design) and as a medium for carrying out many other necessary activities (e.g., communication, recor~keeping, and reporting). Consequently, engineering educationin every discipline must include some exposure to computer science and programming. Computers are at present a more central feature of the educational experience in some disciplines than in others in, say, electrical engineering than in civil engineering. Budgetary constraints are certainly a factor here in most schools. However, a goal of engineer- ing school administrators should be to see that every department has access to the available computer resources. Orientation to the realities of the work world. The context in which engineering work is carried out is changing in a number of ways, as described in the previous section. Many of these changing features of the environment have implications for engineering curricula, apart from those already discussed. Increasingly frequent and severe short- ages of materials of various kinds, for example, will require that engi- neering students learn how to deal with resource shortages as one type of constraint on design. Another type of resource constraint is shortages of capital, which will likely be a frequent consideration for the foresee- able future. Students must likewise be able to understand and deal with the impact of this constraint on planning and design. A third requirement derives from the expected further growth in government use of engineering resources. The engineering educational process should make students aware of the differing objectives and ([riving forces that, in general, characterize engineering in the public

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 119 and private sectors. Such an awareness is important for engineers in either sector as the interaction between sectors increases and espe- cially as the flow of engineers between sectors increases. Finally, an awareness of the different cultural objectives and forces characterizing different regions of the world market {at least in general) will help engineers to have a better sense of the dynamics and requirements of international competition for these markets. Such knowledge, specific to the realities of the world market for engineering products, could form one of many links between the technical and nontechnical com- nonents of engineering education. . . Persona] career management. Many of the points made in the sec- tion on characteristics of the future highlighter] the need for career adaptability. It is generally not part of engineering curricula under- graduate or graduate, formal or informal to provide engineers with the insights necessary to promote their ability to manage their own careers in any Tong-term sense. This is a great shortcoming in engineer- ing education. Certainly if engineers are made aware of the options and opportunities they will face in the future as well as the problems and pitfalls the allocation of resources both to and within engineering will be far more efficiently carried out than would otherwise be the case. The ability to actively and intelligently manage one's engineering career would benefit not only in individuals but, in the aggregate, the nation as a whole. The foregoing represents a considerably long list of topics and new educational emphases recommended for inclusion within the under- graduate engineering curriculum. Yet, as was discussed in chapter 4, it is difficult to provide even the cursory exposure to nontechnical sub- jects currently required by most schools, within a four-year program. There is frequent pressure to reduce even that small requirement in order to satisfy the demanc] for greater technical content. The commit- tee is well aware that to expect the current curriculum to be expancled to accommodate greater breadth and depth of engineering stucly as well as more nontechnical educational and orientational subjects would be naive. Yet, these eclucational components will be increasingly neces- sary if American engineers and engineering are to maintain the flexibil- ity and resiliency that the future environment will demand. On that basis the committee concludes that some restructuring of the undergraduate curriculum will have to occur. What form it will take will vary from school to school. Some of the material can be woven into existing courses by changing the way in which courses are taught. Greater flexibility in course requirements is another conservative

OCR for page 111
120 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE approach, allowing more courses of this type to be taken as electives. Five-year programs, including dual-degree programs, address the prob- lem of too-limited time more directly. The concept of professional engineering study following general education, as in the medical pro- fession, has even been proposed. In any case, engineering schools will have to examine their own circumstances very closely, with a view to determining how these important educational needs can begin to be addressed. Requirements for the Professional Career Greater management skills. Regardless of an engineer's field of work, an important characteristic will be the possession of greater management skills in the sense of technical project management and management of the engineering task at hand than have been seen among engineers in the past. The ability to work in teams and to relate to other functions of the larger organization {e.g., marketing and finance) is an essential element of these skills. In a more competitive world, it will be advantageous if technical activities are managed com- petently and directly by technically oriented people. Broader education in both technical and nontechnical fields, as called for in the previous section, will be important in preparing an engineer intellectually for the complex demands of project manage- ment. Nevertheless, the essential temperamental and experimental preparation for those responsibilities is gained not in the classroom but in the workplace. In the absence of specific on-the-job training for this purpose, personal initiative on the part of the individual engineer will continue to be necessary for gaining competence in these highly inter- personal and sometimes political skills. Early work experience, whether acquirer] through cooperative education, summer employ- ment, or some other route, can also be a primary source of these practi- cal skills. In acictition, work experience exposes the budding engineer to documentation, reporting procedures, and other practical aspects of basic engineering project and task management. One intangible but important need in these challenging times is for the development of a stronger sense among engineers of their profes- sional role and its responsibilities. Professional ethics is a part of this responsibility and is part of the impetus toward a broader education of engineers {Christiansen, 1984; Report of the Panel on Support Organi- zations and the Engineering Community) . Public criticism of engineer- ing and technology has abated in recent years, but from it the engineering community has learned an important lesson. That is, the

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 121 innovation and management of complex technical systems involves a consideration of social preferences and impacts as well as technical knowledge and skill. Translating such considerations into corporate policy has been perennially difficult. But if more engineers become sensitized to the social ramifications of their work, their viewpoints will represent a formidable force within industry (Report of the Panel on Engineering Interactions With Society) . Career effectiveness. The effectiveness of engineers depends upon their knowledge and capabilities. Those characteristics, in turn, are a function of experience, training, and almost as importantly-the management approaches that prevail within the organization. The organizational philosophy toward continuing education, in particular, can greatly facilitate the effectiveness of engineering employees throughout their careers. It is estimated that because of the rapidity of technological change, an engineer who does not learn while working now has a useful life in practice of only about 10 years. Easier access to technical education and training throughout their careers will be nec- essary if engineers are to keep current in their field and keep abreast of developments in other fields. Such continuing education should include timely access to effective retraining programs. However, formal continuing education alone is not enough. Only about a roughly estimated 5 percent of an engineer's continuing educa- tional opportunities are of this type. The other 95 percent consist of a wide range of informal experiences including on-the-job learning, con- ferences, seminars, short courses, and so forth {Report of the Panel on Continuing Education). Nor is it enough for management to be willing to make these opportunities available. Engineers as individuals must have the personal motivation necessary to take advantage of these learning opportunities. A healthy respect for the career effects of obso- lescence is certainly one basis for that motivation. But it must also be based on a clear understanding of broad world and national economic and technological trends and on a confidence in one's ability to main- tain individual competency and marketability through individual ini- tiative. Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations 1. Likely characteristics of the engineering environment in the year 2000 include longer time horizons for profit-taking in industry, short- ages of capital and resources {both energy and materials), a global econ- omy, with increased intra- and interindustry competition, increased government demand for engineering goods and services, continued

OCR for page 111
122 ENGINEERING EDUCATION AND PRACTICE high rate of scientific discovery and technology development, and an increased requirement for nonadvanced engineering tasks. 2. Given anticipated growth in government demand for engineer- ing resources, sensitizing students to basic differences in the servicing of the public and private sectors is of considerable importance. 3. Because it is likely that both spot and chronic shortages of mate- rials (as well as energy and capital) will characterize the economy of the future, it is important for engineering education and practice alike to reflect those constraints. 4. In the context of an increasingly global economy, sensitivity to cultural and regional differences will be important qualities for engi- neers to acquire. Engineers will also need to appreciate the financial, political, and security forces at play internationally. Communication among U.S. engineers and engineering-based companies regarding the nature of international demand for goods and services will be crucial. The nontechnical components of engineering education ought to include exposure to these aspects of contemporary engineering. In addition, the engineering community should strive to ensure open communication on these matters among engineers ant] companies the work] over. 5. Continuing scientific discovery and technology development will give further impetus to a revolution in engineering practice. With the use of new tools and methods the work of many engineers will become increasingly abstract, involving formulation of ideas and choosing among clevelopment options. Therefore engineers will need to be able to deal with problems in unfamiliar contexts, they will need to be knowledgeable about scientific advances generally, and they should understand the fundamentals of innovation. 6. With heightened competition among and between industries, both domestically and internationally, engineers must establish and maintain great sensitivity to the economic aspects of engineering. 7. If United States engineers are to be adequately prepare(l to meet future needs, then the undergraduate engineering curriculum must emphasize broad engineering education, with strong grounding in fun- damentals and science. In addition, the curriculum must be expanded to include greater exposure to a variety of nontechnical subjects as well as work-orientational skills and knowledge. To accomplish this expan- sion will require restructuring of the standard four-year curriculum by various means. Engineering schools wiR have to examine their existing curricu- 7um and their particular circumstances closely in order to ascertain

OCR for page 111
ENGINEERING'S FUTURE 123 how the curriculum can best be restructured to address these important educational needs. In addition, the committee has recommended that the National Science Foun~lation fund a pilot group of engineering schools to evalu- ate dual-degree and othera~ternative educationalprograms experimen- tally (see chapter 4, recommendation 15J. The results of this experimental program are likely to be quite relevant to the question of curriculum structure and nontraditional content. Participating schools (and engineering school administrators genera1]yJ should examine the results from this standpoint. 8. Successful adaptation to future conditions will require that prac- ticing engineers develop a number of attributes. These include greater technical project management skills, a stronger sense of professional role and responsibilities, and a strong orientation toward maintenance of effectiveness through continuing education. References Bennett, W. J.1984. To Reclaim A Legacy: A Report on the Humanities in Higher Educa- tion. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Humanities. Christiansen, D.1984. The issues we avoid. IEEE Spectrum, 21 t6), p.25. Mintzes, J.1982. Scientific and Technical Personnel Trends and Competitiveness of U.S. Technologically Intensive and Critical Industries. Prepared for Division of Policy Research and Analysis, National Science Foundation. Mintzes, J. and Tash, W. 1984. Comparison of Scientific and Technical Personnel Trends in the U.S., France, West Germany, and the United Kingdom Since 1970. Prepared for Division of Science Resource Studies, National Science Foundation. National Research Council. 1984. Labor Market Conditions for Engineers: Is There a Shortage? Proceedings of a Symposium held by the Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NationalScience Board. 1983. ScienceIndicators: 1982. Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation, pp.2-37. Office of Technology Assessment. 1983. International Competitiveness in Electronics. Washington, E).C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Office of Technology Assessment. 1984. Computerized Manufacturing Automation: Employment, Education, and the Workplace. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Report of the Panel on Continuing Education, in preparation. Report of the Panel on Engineering Interactions With Society, in preparation. Report of the Panel on Support Organizations and the Engineering Community, in preparation. Secretary of State for Industry.1980. Engineering Our Future: Report of the Committee of Inquiry Into the Engineering Profession. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

OCR for page 111