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Continuing Education of Engineers (1985)

Chapter: Executive Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
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Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
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Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Executive Summary." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
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Page 3

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Executive Summary The education of engineers in many ways is only beginning when they receive their degrees and go to work. The direction of an engineer- ing career may change from time to time from design to engineering management, for example but even if it changes very little, the tech- nology with which it deals is changing continually. Engineers cope with such change and succeed in their careers by means of a continuous .. . .earnlng experience. Learning throughout an engineer's career involves three general mechanisms: experience on the job; informal learning {reading jour- nals, attending technical meetings, and similar effortsJ; and formal education and training programs. This report is devoted to the formal education and training programs referred to as continuing education, a relatively small but important part of an engineer's career-long deliber- ate learning process. Education is defined here as the process of expand- ing the general knowledge of the engineer through formal classes; training is the process of acquiring the specific skills required for a defined jolt function. Together the two comprise continuing education, the periodic career-long process that follows an engineer's degree- granting education. Findings This report first treats continuing education from the engineer's point of view. It then examines the role of industry, academia, profes 1

CONTINUING EDUCATION OF ENGINEERS signal societies, proprietary schools, and government in continuing education. While our detailed findings and recommendations appear in the body of the report, the major findings are summarized below: · A meaningful body of knowledge has begun to accumulate regard- ing continuing education from the perspective of the engineer. How- ever, most of it is derived from studies conducted prior to 1980 with support from the National Science Foundation. Whether these results are applicable to current conditions in engineering cannot be ascer- tained at present. · All evidence indicates that most engineers participate in continu- ing education at some point in their careers and that such participation has been growing. · Employer tuition support has been the most important source of funds for continuing advanced education among engineers. · The evidence appears to be too limited to arrive at any conclusions about the impact of continuing education on the individual engineer. Despite the enormous resources allocated to continuing education, relatively little is known about its effects. · Industrial continuing education programs vary in size, type, and complexity and display no consistent pattern. Each program responds to a company's particular needs. The continuing education programs that seem most successful are those developed with a clear commit- ment to the companies' objectives. · Methods of evaluating continuing education programs are not consistent and have not been designed to examine benefits that may accrue to the company sponsoring or supporting the programs. The lack of clear-cut objectives for the programs makes evaluation difficult. · Continuing education has a low priority in the large majority of universities. Neither the institutions nor their faculties have signifi- cant incentives to participate in continuing education programs. · Professional societies in recent years have sharply expanded their efforts in continuing education, but they could do much more in designing and presenting professional development programs to their members. A major difficulty in doing so is the lack of solid information on members' needs, the extent of current activities, and similar points. Conclusions From its findings, the panel has drawn the following conclusions: · Engineers can work productively over a longer period if they have access to effective continuing education. Although business cycles can

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3 affect the demand for engineering work, engineers should always lie considered a national resource. As such, they must be given the oppor- tunity for continuing education regardless of lousiness cycles if they are to remain on the frontiers of their profession. Continuing education is an entity in itself and can no longer lie viewed as an "add-on" role of industry or academia. · Continuing education of engineers is essential to increasing national productivity. Technology is changing and interdisciplinary approaches to engineering are becoming more and more common. Thus, new science and mathematics must lie regularly introduced to engineers. In addition, engineers continually need to develop nontech- nical skills that are not imparted by their formal training. · The need for continuing education is recognized by all involved. Engineers are seeking ways to remain professionally current; industry invests large sums in continuing education programs; professional societies have offered programs for their members for many years; and academia is involved {although universities give low priority to contin- uing education and try to extend traditional course work to industry) . · Although the need for continuing education is well recognized, no clear objectives for such programs or ways of assessing their effective- ness have been established by any of the individuals and organizations involved. Recommendation In addition to the detailed recommendations in the body of this report, the panel has developed from its findings and conclusions the following overriding recommendation: The National Science Foundation (NSFJ or other appropriate organi- zation should undertake a program designed to establish the spectrum of values and objectives of continuing education for individual engi- neers, industry, and academia and to describe how continuing educa- tion could or should operate in the engineering world of tomorrow. Because most universities do not have the resources (and most faculty lack theincentivesJ toproduce qualitycontinuing educationprograms, the NSFproject should examine the impact of industry's assumption of this responsibility.

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