Compared to other majors, engineering does not graduate enough engineers to meet the demand. This imbalance points to a potentially chronic shortage of engineering professionals which in turn threatens our ability to create and develop necessary innovations for a growing population. To further complicate this predicament, it is a known fact that some of the world’s best engineers are not practicing engineering, and some of the best potential engineers are not even studying engineering. Considering that emergent advances such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, information, and communications technology will only require more engineers, it is perhaps a good time we as a profession took a different route in attracting more students to the profession. The following solutions consider the global importance of the engineering profession and offer insights into how to make the profession more appealing to the next generation of engineers.
- Enhance understanding of Engineering
Around the world, engineering establishments need to develop a coordinated effort to promote public understanding of engineering and technology literacy at the grassroots level. There is a common misconception that engineering is for ‘nerds’ and that it is a difficult profession to pursue as it involves a lot of mathematics. Such myths often dissuade students from considering a profession in this industry. The public has little understanding of the nature and value of engineering education. Engineering schools should help the public understand what engineers do and the role that engineering plays in ensuring their quality of life. A strategy to realign engineering education must be developed within the context of understanding the elements of engineering.
2. Promote exchange programs
Exchange programs within the engineering field are critical as it aims to introduce students to the innovations and developments within other cultures; fostering interactions among the next generation of pioneers in science and technology; and building long-term linkages and collaborations across disciplines, cultures, and countries. For instance, the UK and Japan governments promote Internet links between British and Japanese schools; and encourage exchanges of students and teachers. Aside from exploring further co-operations through international organizations, both countries are providing wider opportunities for young British and Japanese people to experience, and develop a fuller understanding of the other’s country, culture, people, society, and way of life. By providing a program that allows students to receive foreign language ability, cross-cultural skills, and professional experience to effectively work within a multinational environment revolutionizes the overall conception of engineering. Students can experience adventure, interaction skills as well as increase their employability prospects and work within different backgrounds. Collaborations between different colleges and universities across the world promote the exchange of brilliant ideas, culture, work ethic, etc.
- Developing engineering research centers
Engineering research centers provide an unparalleled collaborative framework between major industrial players and educators to increase the mobility of students and faculty. The growing body of research about how students learn can serve as a guide and check at each stage of the work of transforming the undergraduate learning environment. By focusing on research on learning schools will be able to identify how to serve students with different learning styles, what approaches and pedagogies work, and how to support them to become lifelong learners. It also helps them to identify what specific skills are required for the practice of engineering in the twenty-first century. Increased industry collaboration, encouragement of research, and innovation attract more students for a master’s degree and also inspire students to take up engineering as a major.
- Expand scholarship opportunities
Leveraging scholarships provide a value-added incentive for applicants who may want to pursue engineering but are unable to afford the fees. This is a major concern in developing countries that face a critical shortage of skilled manpower due to issues such as poverty. The fees to engineering education should be lower so that students are not demotivated by the tuition cap. Scholarships and financial support will help talented students from lower-income groups in bridging the gap between raw talent and a seasoned intellectual. It is time we move away from the stereotype of engineering education being an expensive mode of education.
- Active collaboration with industry players
Engineering is a dynamic field, constantly metamorphosing as new technologies are introduced. To expose students to a wide facet of skills, collaborations with industry players have become imperative for most engineering educational establishments. Some courses on offer may not be beneficial to the industry and result in a large number of unemployed graduates, effectively shying off other prospective engineering students from pursuing this field. Educational establishments need to collaborate with industry players to identify what specific skills they are interested in and set that into the curricular they offer.
Industry leaders should also be encouraged to create internship and research opportunities to allow students to experience a more hands-on approach to engineering. It also assists students and schools to identify and understand the skills that are sought for during the recruitment process.
- Raise awareness among high school students
To effectively handle various myths that circulate about the field of engineering, governments around the country should tackle support for the development and maintenance of innovative high school level programs. Study materials for high school students should be designed towards a successful engineering career. Established societies and engineering students can also act as mentors; exposing high schoolers to exciting engineering activities and encouraging them to take pursue this field. Universities should work with local communities, schools, and teachers to talk about what engineering is. It’s important to start working with schools as early as possible – leaving it to the secondary school level is too late. At the moment in primary schools, engineering only comes in during history lessons. If you explain to children, for example, that all this equipment in hospitals, where you have an x-ray or any procedure, would have had an engineer involved to develop the machine that has helped cure patients, it gives a broader impression early on to children of the wide possibility of this career.
When you view engineering as a narrow discipline, the chances are that it is not communicated in the most exciting way to students either. Some universities are offering narrow degrees – this inevitably means they are restricting their pool of applicants to a narrow remit
- Competitions to popularize engineering in society
To increase enthusiasm and attract students to the engineering field, several competitions and campaigns have arisen within educational establishments as well as within the industry. The competitions continue to attract increasing attention from engineering programs across the globe. The participation in these competitions is beneficial to both students trying to develop their design and networking abilities, and institutions trying to promote their programs and increase their visibility.
8. Curricular reform- he public’s perception of engineering is influenced by some factors: the nature of engineering practice, the credentials required of engineering practitioners, and the structure and rigor of an engineering education vis-à-vis other baccalaureate or professional education programs. To attract more students to the profession the stature of being an engineer must be enhanced. Furthermore, a great majority of engineering faculty have no industry experience. There is a need for greater collaborations with industry players to develop up to date and relevant curricular for students. Engineering educators should also explore the appropriate use of a case-studies approach in undergraduate and graduate curricula. We need curriculum reform. In particular, we need to do this to open up the pool of applicants that we attract from. We have had such a focus on the message that engineering is only for those that are good at maths and science we are losing a large number of possible candidates. We need to emphasize the creative aspects of engineering and show that it is about solving problems not just solving equations.
9. Overarching Technology strategy-
Powerful new technologies are already transforming every industry globally. These technologies could also be harnessed to transform education and training. Incorporating ICT into engineering education is also highly rated for providing students with the latest e-skills and opportunities for international networking, needed for effective participation in today’s globalized world. Rapid advancements in the years ahead could enable new learning environments such as using simulations, visualizations, game playing, intelligent tutors and avatars, networks of learning, and more. The technologies that are coming could create rich and compelling learning opportunities that meet all learners’ needs, provide knowledge and training within a flexible environment while boosting the productivity of learning and lowering its cost.
10. Improve Career advice
With the rise in tuition fees many more young people and their parents are looking much more carefully into the job and career opportunities relating to the choice of university degree subject – and indeed the alternative of taking an apprenticeship route instead. With the existent and growing shortage of engineering skills, this should present an attractive career option for many young people. However, there continues to be a problem with the perception of engineering as a career, and in particular the relevance and context of the maths and science that young people study at school. Students need exposure to industry and career information at the stages at which they are making choices. Universities need to do more to partner with industry and local schools to make this happen, providing students with hands-on, work-related experience, access to recent graduates/apprentices, demonstrating the exciting contribution engineering makes to current and future issues and how the university engineering degrees will lead to rewarding jobs.