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Brain Drain Concerns In Technical Capacity Building Efforts

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering Education & Capacity Building in Developing Countries

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.282.1 - 11.282.7



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Paper Authors


Russel Jones World Expertise LLC

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Russel C. Jones is a private consultant, working through World Expertise LLC to offer services in engineering education in the international arena. He previously served as Executive Director of the National Society of Professional Engineers. Prior to that, he had a long career in education: faculty member at MIT, department chair in civil engineering at Ohio State University, dean of engineering at University of Massachusetts, academic vice president at Boston University, and President at University of Delaware. Dr. Jones is President of the Committee on Capacity Building of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Brain Drain Concerns in Technical Capacity Building Efforts


WFEO and UNESCO, among other organizations, are engaged in major efforts at building technical capacity in developing countries, with an aim of promoting economic development and engagement in the technology-based global economy there. A base of well-educated engineers is seen as a primary requisite for economic development in such countries. Such a pool of well qualified and certified graduate engineers can lead to direct foreign investment by multi-national companies, more effective utilization of foreign aid monies, and small business startups through entrepreneurship. Mobility of work (offshore outsourcing) and of engineers across national borders is one result of such capacity building efforts. But observers in developing countries raise the concern that the investment in building additional technical capacity there will simply lead to accelerated brain drain, with the enhanced pool of engineers likely to leave for jobs in developed countries. This paper explores the dynamics of technical capacity building in developing countries, and provides case studies of successful efforts.


In the global economy of the 21st Century, engineers play a key role in overall economic development for countries and regions. In the well developed countries, the role of the engineer is well understood and utilized. In much of the developing world, however, the available pool of engineering talent is typically below critical mass – and economic development and even important basic societal needs that rely on engineering – such as clean water supply and sanitation – lack the technical talent to address them.

Technical capacity building efforts, such as those being pursued by the World Federation of Engineering Organization and UNESCO, aim at developing a sufficient pool of well educated and certified engineering graduates in developing countries to effect three desirable outcomes:

• Technical capability is needed for developing countries to engage effectively in the global economy; direct foreign investment, international trade, mobility of engineers, and the flow of work to countries with cost effective talent will result. • Indigenous science and technology capacity is needed to insure that international aid funds are utilized effectively and efficiently – for initial project implementation, for long-term operation and maintenance, and for the development of capacity to do future projects. And a sufficient pool of engineers can enable a developing country to address the UN’s Millennium Development Goals effectively, including poverty reduction, safe water and sanitation, etc.

Jones, R. (2006, June), Brain Drain Concerns In Technical Capacity Building Efforts Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--741

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