AAES Session Focuses on Engineering as a Global Profession

The first session in the overall program, “Engineering is a Global Profession: Preparing the U.S. Engineer and Supporting the International One,” featured a panel of industry and association leaders presenting and discussing ideas and best practices for the industry’s consideration of a global strategy, followed by the AAES General Assembly meeting, Nov. 3, at ASCE Headquarters in Reston, VA.

Proctor Reid, Director of Programs for the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) led off the session, outlining various initiatives that NAE has undertaken to advance the global competency of U.S. engineers.

NAE developed the Grand Challenge Scholars Program to help accomplish the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering the organization outlined in 2007. Reid talked about grooming undergraduates who approach engineering challenges with a “systems approach.”

The program focuses on teaching five core competencies – research, interdisciplinary understanding, entrepreneurship, multicultural understanding, and social consciousness through service learning.

Cathy Leslie and Noha El-Ghobashy touched on similar themes in their talks.

El-Ghobashy is President for Engineering for Change LLC (E4C), an organization that focuses on preparing the global engineering workforce to improve lives in underserved communities.

The systems approach that is so important to NAE’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program is essential to E4C’s work as well. She said the notion that engineering is a means to helping the world is helping to improve gender balance and diversity in engineering programs.

“That message is resonating all the way down from university students to K-through-12 students,” El-Ghobashy told the AAES audience. “It resonates with females; it resonates with minorities; it allows us to talk about engineering in a different way. It isn’t just math and science and technology; it’s about improving quality of life.”

Leslie, Executive Director of Engineers Without Borders USA, emphasized the non-curricular components of an engineering education, the outside-the-classroom activities that make such a difference in both the student’s life and the world at large.

“We’re going to be out in the field,” she said. “We’re going to be learning by doing… This is the student of tomorrow, and these are the students who are in demand. These are students we need to stay competitive.”

The second portion of the session focused on supporting the international engineer.

Michael Milligan, the Executive Director and CEO of ABET, and Jerry Carter, CEO of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), talked about the global approach to engineering education accreditation and licensure.

ABET has established memoranda of understanding with 18 international accreditors. Fifteen percent of ABET accredited programs are outside of the United States – 574 programs at 121 institutions.

Meanwhile, the NCEES exams, though administered in English and designed for the practice of engineering in the United States, are used around the world. Foreign exam sites include those in Canada, Japan, South Korea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar.

Peter Turner, Senior Adviser of Global Development Strategy for the MCI Group, discussed key results from the Global Engagement Index (GEI), which measured the “performance, relationship strength and outcome of engagement tactics as seen through the eyes of associations’ customers and members” internationally.

Nate Lavigne, Director of Technology and Analytics at NACE International, a participant in the GEI, shared how their index results are informing NACE’s approach to its international members and customers.

Turner stressed the importance of local relevance, using nation- and culture-specific social media as an example.

“Focus on customer- or product-driven strategy first,” he said. “They’re looking for more tangible experiences.”

From the various insights and perspectives shared during the program, it’s clear that relevant engagement is important to supporting both U.S. and international engineers.