The ability of the United States to support innovation requires production and retention of individuals highly skilled in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM). These STEM professionals work in a widely disseminated global enterprise spanning government, industry, and academia.
What has been largely absent from most discussions of the future of the US technical workforce is the role that engineering technology (ET) education—both two- and four-year degree pathways—plays or should play in supporting the nation’s capacity for innovation. This omission is worrisome, because the number of people with this type of education is substantial. What is more, the jobs performed by these individuals, which include designing, building, maintaining, repairing, and operating a variety of technologies and technological systems, are critical both to the U.S. manufacturing sector and to the nation’s essential infrastructure. Relatively little is known, for example, about the extent to which the supply of engineering technologists and technicians meets—or does not meet—the needs of employers in different sectors of the economy; the kinds of changes in curriculum under way or needed to prepare graduates of these programs to best meet the challenges of globalization; and the extent and significance of differences between the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for engineering technologists and those needed by engineers.
This 18-month, National Science Foundation–funded project aims to shed light on the status, role, and needs of engineering technology education in the United States. The project will address both two- and four-year degree pathways and will result in a final report containing findings and recommendations. The project has the following objectives:
Review the status and history of the production and employment of engineering technologists and technicians in the United States. The review will address not only the number and discipline-focus of graduates from engineering technology programs but also their demographic characteristics, academic preparation, and distribution by sector, job role/category, and geographic region.
Gather available data and explore private- and public-sector employer perceptions regarding the adequacy of the supply of engineering technologists and technicians as well as the appropriateness of the knowledge and skills they bring to the workplace.
Describe the characteristics of U.S. engineering technology education programs related to such things as curriculum and faculty professional development; outreach to/partnerships with K-12 schools, industry, and other organizations; and communication and collaboration with engineering education programs.