National Academies Press: OpenBook

Continuing Education of Engineers (1985)

Chapter: 1. Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
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Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"1. Introduction." National Research Council. 1985. Continuing Education of Engineers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/583.
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Introduction When engineers complete their preemployment education and accept employment whether in industry, academia, or other sec- tors their need for education does not end. In many ways it is just beginning. The focus and direction of an engineer's career may change from time to time, and education is needed to prepare for each new direction. Even if the direction of a career changes very little, its focus must shift because the technology is continually changing. The basic function of engineering is to translate science and mathematics into applications; nest science and mathematics, then, must be continually introduced to the working engineer. For example, the electronic design engineer who graduated 30 years ago or more may have designed elec- tronic equipment ever since, but the focus of those design efforts has changed from vacuum tubes to transistors to integrated circuits to very large scale integration {VLSI) of circuits. Only through continuing edu- cation can competence be maintained throughout such a career. Continuing education has two major elements: education and train- ing. Education imparts the kinds of information that the engineer inte- grates into the working knowledge he applies as needed to solve whatever problem is at hand. Training, on the other hand, imparts skills that the engineer needs to perform specific tasks. Learning throughout an engineer's career involves three general mechanisms: experience on the job; professional development {reading journals and attending seminars, technical meetings, and similar events d; and for- mal education and training programs. This report addresses the third of 4

INTRODUCTION 5 these mechanisms, which accounts for a relatively small but signifi- cant part of the engineer's career-long deliberate learning process. Any advanced or degree-granting education that occurs subsequent to employment is considered continuing education in this report. Traditionally, training has been emphasized by industry, while employee education has had less emphasis by industry as well as uni- versities. However, there are signs that industry is beginning to see the need for more of the education element of continuing education. Some engineers can maintain their competence without additional structured education and training. But these individuals are a minority. Most engineers need continuing education throughout their careers if they are to remain competitive in the job market. Likewise, companies require competent engineers to remain competitive in their markets. To achieve their goals, both the individual engineer and industry must perceive the usefulness of and the need for continuing education. When that need is adequately perceived and articulated through appropriate needs assessment methodology, the suppliers of continuing education will provide the necessary resources. These suppliers industry, uni- versities, professional societies, commercial trainers, and govern- ment have a strong vested interest in allocating the required resources to education and training. But too often they are hampered in their efforts because the need for continuing education is not under- stood, due to insufficient feedback on its results and value. When such feedback is lacking, or is unfavorable, or is not understood by the engi- neer, participation in continuing education will be minimal. Similarly, when such feedback does not reach the supplier, resources will not be allocated for continuing education. The process is illustrated in the model that appears below. As shown in the model, the need for more education and training that is perceived by the engineer and the sup NEED L INDUSTRY/ ACADEM IA RESOURCE AL LOCATI ON RESU LTS l MEASUR E , ENGINEER USE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION LONG ER E F F ECTI V E CAREER

6 CONTINUING EDUCATION OF ENGINEERS plier E.g., industry, universities, end professional societies) is the driv- ing function; a longer, more effective engineering career is the output. Able, competent engineers produce better work, resulting in more effective industry, government, and private engineering firms. Thus, national productivity depends in part on such effective engi- neering careers. The longer an engineer remains competent, the greater the contribution to productivity, particularly if engineering shortages should occur. And, while long and effective careers do not result solely from continuing education, their extent and effectiveness can be sub- stantially increased by it. Hence, continuing education becomes essen- tial to the engineer's performance and in fact is the portion longest in duration of an engineering education. To be effective, continuing education should be able to respond much faster than academic curricula to changes in the state of the art. While it is risky to predict specific changes, in considering the course of contin- uing education it is certainly useful to have some idea of the types of careers that engineers will have. Therefore, the panel has assembled a list, which appears below, of developments that are likely to affect the careers of engineers during 1990-2000: · A multidisciplinary approach to engineering will be required. New technologies will cause a blurring of the boundaries between engineer- ingfunctions {e.g., design, manufacturing, marketing, managements. · The pervasive growth of management information systems means that there will be fewer middle management positions and engineers will be required to remain longer in technical functions. · Both industry and government will attempt to control costs by increasing productivity and quality. Therefore, continuing education will be scrutinized more carefully. · Growth in computer applications and simulations will spur rapid growth in other technologies. · The impact of artificial intelligence on software will reduce the emphasis on computer programming. · Applied mathematics will make a resurgence in engineering. · Computer-integrated manufacturing will be introduced in most areas of industry. · Bioengineering and genetic engineering will be introduced into areas traditionally associated with more classical approaches. · Technology and society at large will become more closely inte- grated. · Nontechnical skills, such as planning and communications, will play an increasingly important role in engineering work.

7 In this report the panel first examines continuing education hom the engineerls point of view. ~ then covers the roles of industry the universities' professional societies' proprietary organizations' and gov- ernment in continuing education for engineers. In As examination of continuing education' the panel teas reached the conclusion that it is in an inadequate state of affairs. Tbereforc' some positive recommenda- dons on methods for improving continuing education for engineers are included in each section.

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