Guest Editorial Context and Challenge for Twenty - First Century Engineering Education


The engineering workforce of tomorrow, and indeed that of today, will face profound new challenges. Every day the men and women of this workforce will face the stress of competing in the fast-paced world of change we call the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty-first century. They will also face even larger challenges because the nation and world will need to call on them to seize opportunities and solve global problems of unprecedented scope and scale. The United States has long been King of the Hill in engineering education, especially at the graduate level, and certainly in the quality and accomplishment of our research universities overall. We have been the most technologically innovative nation on the planet. But things are changing rapidly in the twenty-first century. The last half of the twentieth century was dominated by physics, electronics, high-speed communications, and high-speed long-distance transportation. It was an age of speed and power. The twenty-first century appears to be quite different, dominated by biology and information, but also by macro-scale issues like energy , water, and sustainability. These are things that should be strengths of U.S. engineers, but the context is rapidly evolving. We once dominated all other countries in terms of expenditures on R&D, but today North America, Europe, and Asia each account for about a third of the world's R&D expenditures. Whereas, the U.S. is still on top, we are losing " market share " in every category used to evaluate R&D. From 1986 to 2003 the U.S. share of R&D spending dropped nine percent. The U.S. dropped eight percent in share of scientific publications, dropped 10 percent in share of new of science and engineering bachelors degrees, dropped two percent in share of U.S. patents, and dropped 30 percent in share of new science and engineering Ph.Ds. Now this is not all bad, because it largely reflects growth in other parts of the world, and we should celebrate the advances of other countries. Nonetheless, because we must depend on out-thinking and out-innovating others, these trends must be watched carefully. The rise of production of engineers in China is unprecedented. China now educates about 250,000 bachelor-level engineers per year while the U.S. graduates about 60,000. Yes, there are still large quality differences, and numbers are not everything, but Floyd Kvamme, a highly experienced high-tech venture capitalist with Kleiner-Perkins, says that " Venture capital is the search for smart engineers. …

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Vest1970GuestEC, title={Guest Editorial Context and Challenge for Twenty - First Century Engineering Education}, author={Charles M . Vest}, year={1970} }