From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
WASHINGTON — The United States faces a shortage of engineers in coming years, and that could diminish the nation’s status as a leader in technology development and innovation, executives and educators say.
The looming shortage comes as nations, including China and India, are seeing a boom in the number of students in engineering programs.
Assuming the trend continues, it could result in the U.S. continuing to lose technology jobs to overseas competition.
“At the moment, the U.S. leads the world in engineering talent, but we need to continue to feed the pipeline,” said Albert Gray, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers in Alexandria, Va.
Academics and engineering professionals say the technological education pipeline must begin in middle school or high school.
“Middle and high school students and most of their teachers have little idea what engineers do,” said Bruce Kramer, a director of engineering education at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va. “Students don’t know that engineering jobs are well-paying, creative jobs and fail to take the science and math subjects they need to get into and succeed in engineering school.”
Stan Jaskolski, dean of the College of Engineering at Marquette University, says there have been 100,000 fewer engineering students in the past decade, according to the 2002 National Science Foundation’s Science Engineering Indicators report.
“It’s a growing national problem. Virtually every college of engineering has experienced declines,” Jaskolski said.
As enrollment in U.S. undergraduate programs falls, China produces over half a million engineers a year, with India close behind, Gray said.
To maintain an edge over emerging engineering powerhouses, U.S. students must take even more advanced math and science courses, Kramer said.
“Global competition has put a huge emphasis on ensuring that U.S. graduates have the latest skills,” Kramer said. “The only long-term solution to the off-shoring of high technology jobs is to educate a high technology work force” that is able to compete globally, he said.
Lynn Arts, recruiting manager for Johnson Controls, said the engineering industry anticipates a 27 percent shortage in engineers by 2005.
Johnson Controls is developing various ways to expose students to the opportunities in engineering. The company already hosts periodic job shadow days for high school students, Arts said.
“Organizations that need emerging (engineering) talent will have to be savvy with high schools, technical schools and colleges,” Arts said.
Marquette’s Jaskolski has an even more aggressive plan. He hopes to develop future engineers through partnerships with as many as 24 area high schools.
Students at Thomas More High School in St. Francis and Lakeview Technology Academy will be among the first to experience college-level engineering courses next fall.
Local professional engineering societies, area businesses and Marquette engineering faculty and students are all elements of the equation, under Jaskolski’s plan.
“We have to motivate them about science, technology and engineering,” he said.
Each school will have two faculty mentors and two industry mentors. Students will benefit through the use of the college’s labs and will earn college credit for their classes. Jaskolski is also working with industrial leaders to establish college scholarships for promising engineering students.
Some schools, such as Thomas More, will receive help from a national campaign to foster engineering students. Project Lead the Way worked with the high school to set up its five-course engineering curriculum, which parallels courses offered at Marquette.
The first course, introduction to engineering design, will be offered in fall 2004. Courses in digital electronics, computer integrated manufacturing, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development will be offered in subsequent years.
Encourage minorities, women
Thomas More President Steven Roy said students are eager to fill the 20 spots available for the new program.
“Our hope is that we will educate students as to what the possibilities in engineering and technology are,” Roy said. “It’s exciting and it’s creative and it’s new. It’s state of the art.”
This summer, teachers from Thomas More will enlist in an intensive two-week program at Milwaukee School of Engineering to prepare for the new courses.
Jaskolski said he hopes the partnership encourages women and minorities to enter the field.
“We want more of a diverse nature associated with our population” he said.
William Hittman, principal director of Lakeview Technology Academy, part of the Kenosha Unified School District, said that of 21 students who were interested in the new program, five were females.
“We need to address minority students who have not traditionally gone into engineering,” Hittman said. Hittman, whose niece is an engineer, said “the opportunities for female engineers are just phenomenal.”
Jaskolski said about 28 percent of the 1,100 Marquette engineering undergraduates were women.
Despite the high demand, the job market is highly competitive, Johnson Controls’ Arts said.
Companies such as Johnson Controls and Briggs & Stratton say proactive recruiting at colleges is part of their hiring strategy.
Copyright 2004 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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