June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.75.1 - 13.75.10
A New Vision for Engineering Technology Programs to Strengthen Recruitment and Retention
Most engineering technology programs in the United States are struggling with low enrollments and difficulty in recruiting and retaining students. The declining enrollments are especially felt in two-year associate degree technology programs. Despite the claims from industry that it is increasingly difficult to find well qualified workers with technology backgrounds, recruitment still remains a struggle. Engineering programs on the other hand recruit well, but suffer from lower retention.
This paper presents a plan for a major curricular change that is being implemented across the commonwealth at the Pennsylvania State University that will provide stronger matriculation pathways for both two-year technology and engineering transfer students into baccalaureate engineering technology programs. One of the features of this new curriculum is a common freshman year for the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs. Another feature is the sophomore year where students elect to follow an associate degree track that is streamlined towards matriculation into a BSET degree or focus squarely on the two year degree, but concentrated in a specialization area identified by local industry.
Recognizing the Problems
Due to low enrollments and difficulty in recruiting students, many colleges and universities are eliminating their engineering technology programs because of high costs. However, high-tech manufacturing companies in the United States rely on graduates from engineering technology programs. The reluctance of students and the lack of encouragement from their parents to enter such programs, despite the demands of the workplace and career potential, have been well documented1. “Tech Prep” and other programs have sought to correct what has been seen by many as a simple problem of career awareness and curricular matching, but enrollments in engineering technology programs have not responded. At the same time, many undergraduates seek careers in engineering for which they are ill-prepared, while others avoid programs based on STEM altogether2. Also, many graduates of engineering technology programs need additional training in other fields to be useful to their employers3.
Statistics show that only 10% of high school graduates in the United States pursue either engineering or engineering technology careers, while 20% of German and Japanese students pursue such careers. A primary reason for this difference in career choice is the incomplete understanding both by students and their parents of career possibilities in technology-related disciplines and how those careers can be attained4. In 1995, only 6.7% of all US bachelor’s degrees awarded were in engineering. During that same year Japan and Germany had much greater percentages of engineering graduates, 19.3% and 19.7%, respectively5.
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