The first phase of the project, Synthesizing and Integrating Industry Perspectives, was designed to hear the voice of the primary customer – employers. In the spring of 2013, ASEE hosted a two-day workshop that brought together representatives of industry and academia in an intensive exploration of the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) needed in engineering today and in the coming years. The 34 representatives of industry, four staffers and officials from the U.S. intelligence community, and eight academics identified core competencies that remain key, but added an array of skills and professional qualities that will help students succeed in a dynamic, rapidly changing field.
This group found the engineering profession and the abilities of engineering graduates under pressure from several directions, with current training viewed as pursing a trajectory that may lag behind the technological demands of the nation in 2024. Areas of growing importance include: project management, effective product development, system integration, leadership, communication, and the ability to merge engineering, business, and societal priorities.
Industry still values a solid foundation in math and science, although the relative importance of math may diminish slightly in the years ahead. Students must have a sufficient grasp of these fundamentals to understand the dimensions of a problem without relying on models. That foundation, however, should incorporate programming, systems thinking and ability to use relevant tools. Less well-defined but necessary, in the view of many participants, are good communication skills, persistence, curious learning capability, drive and motivation, economics and business acumen, high ethical standards, critical thinking, and willingness to take calculated risks.
To instill these skills and qualities in future engineers, changes in approach will be required by academe and industry. Universities will need to adjust faculty reward structures to place more of a premium on teaching, promote more cross-disciplinary instruction, and welcome involvement by industry in supplying case studies, mentorship of students, and shared laboratory experiences. For its part, industry will need to recognize a shared responsibility in developing T-shaped engineers. The workshop produced numerous concrete suggestions of ways industry and academe could collaborate – from faculty internships in industry to company involvement in authentic learning experiences that occur before traditional capstone projects – as well as an awareness that barriers between universities and companies serve neither. Download TUEE Phase I Report.