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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives
collaboration, and future tasks for companies, educational institutions and engineers to meet emerging challenges of the global engineering environment.2
A U.S.-Japan Definition and Vision of the “Global Engineer”
At a basic level, a “global engineer” can be defined as one who possesses the cultural and personal skills to work effectively anywhere in the world, displays outstanding technical competence, and contributes to advancing the objectives of his or her individual organization and its partners. Below, we will discuss in greater detail the skills and capabilities required of global engineers, and the contributions that global engineers can be expected to make in the future.
U.S. AND JAPANESE CONTEXT FOR DEVELOPING AND UTILIZING ENGINEERS WITH INTERNATIONAL SKILLS
The preceding chapters provide most of the context for understanding the skills, styles of work and engineering cultures that prevail in the United States and Japan today, and how they affect the skills and capabilities that U.S. and Japanese engineers bring to international collaborative activities. Some of the material for the following discussion is drawn from surveys and interviews conducted by the Japanese and U.S. working groups (see Box 6-1).
The Place of Engineers in Society
U.S. and Japanese engineers both play prominent roles in their respective societies, but there are interesting differences. It is widely perceived that managers with engineering backgrounds are more likely to rise to the top management level in Japanese companies, particularly in manufacturing, than is the case in U.S. companies. Figure 6-1 shows that a high percentage of Japan's corporate top management are engineers. Rigorous U.S.-Japan comparative surveys are difficult to come by.
The situation in public service appears to be somewhat different. It appears that U.S. engineers and scientists are more likely to hold key policymaking positions as cabinet level officials and heads of major scientific and regulatory agencies than are Japanese scientists and engineers. This is partly due to the fact that under Japan's parliamentary system elected legislators are generally chosen to head the major agencies, in contrast to the U.S. system in which the president appoints cabinet members from a variety of backgrounds. In addition, the U.S. system allows for presidential appointments to a much lower level of the bureaucracy than is the case in Japan, where only the minister and a parliamentary vice minister for each agency are appointed by the prime minister. Career officials, many of whom graduated from the law or economics faculties of their universities, possess correspondingly greater influence in Japan.
Therefore, while it appears that Japanese engineers enjoy a higher level of status and responsibility in the corporate sector than their U.S. counterparts, greater job mobility and other factors may allow U.S. engineers the flexibility to wield leadership in a wider range of institutions, including universities, private foundations and other nonprofit organizations, as well as public service in federal, state and local agencies.