OIT Times: Engineers of the Future--"Are Engineering Curricula Too Strict or Too Lax?"
March 26, 2001
The Engineers of the Future panel discussed reasons for the drastic decrease in the pool of knowledgeable engineers in industry. Panelists included John Green of The Aluminum Association (moderator), Tom Danjczek of the Steel Manufacturers Association, Stanley Johnson of Iowa State University, and William Wulf of the National Academy of Engineering.
All of the panelists concurred that the engineering field is experiencing a high turnover rate. Many of the international students trained in a variety of engineering fields are returning to their homelands. In addition, many engineers never practice their profession in a manufacturing industry.
Panelists debated the issue of whether the curriculum and training for most engineering programs are too strict and intimidating to students or too lax to yield enough marketable engineers. Johnson suspects the programs are intimidating, saying, tatistics demonstrate a drastic decline in female enrollment for engineering students.Danjczek offered his opinion that the engineering field doesn exhibit enough benefits to high school students. Industry has actually become more marketable with the influx of new technologies. Wulf responded that, ngineering programs in today educational system should be tailored to become more challenging and rewarding than ever before./p>
Mentors were also mentioned as an important boon to engineering students. Students need the guidance and expertise of professionals in the field in order to better prepare for a career in engineering. Panel members agreed that engineering students may benefit from working in the field prior to continuing graduate work, rather than simply learning theoretical knowledge in the classroom. During the question and answer period, a student in the audience noted that many of the engineering instructors at his university have accents that are difficult to understand, creating frustration among students.