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Enabling The U.S. Engineering Workforce For Technological Innovation: The Value Of Engineering To The Nation's Growth And Security

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Professional Graduate Education & Industry

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.606.1 - 12.606.10



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Paper Authors


Norman Egbert

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NORMAN F. EGBERT is vice president of engineering and technology, Rolls-Royce Corporation.

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Donald Keating University of South Carolina

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DONALD A. KEATING is associate professor of mechanical engineering, University of South Carolina, and chair ASEE-Graduate Studies Division.

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

Enabling the U.S. Engineering Workforce for Technological Innovation: The Value of Engineering to the Nation’s Growth and Security

I. Introduction

This is the fourth of four invited papers prepared for a special panel session of the National Collaborative Task Force on Engineering Graduate Education Reform that is focusing its efforts on the deliberate advancement of professional engineering graduate education to enable a strong U.S. engineering workforce for competitiveness and national security purposes. This final panel paper is focusing specifically on the worth of the engineering workforce to the nation.

Providing a thorough assessment of the value of engineering to our nation is a complex undertaking involving objective and subjective elements. A simple, factual approach would be to equate that value with the sum of the salaries of all individuals performing jobs classified as engineering. By 2006, that value reached approximately $150 billion.1, 2While not an insignificant sum, an argument can be made that the actual value is much higher.

Subjectively, the value could be equated to the public perception of engineering. Public perception about most topics including engineering fluctuates. During the U.S. quest to put a man on the moon in the 1960s, engineering was recognized as a highly respected profession. Late in the 20th century, though, the desirability of engineering as a career or even as a significantly positive contributor to society was questioned as job demand waxed and waned. In addition, the growth of technology was viewed by many as complicating their lives, and engineering was perceived as part of the problem rather than a solution. We might call this the “Dilbert effect.”

The authors’ view is that an evaluation built on simplicity or public perception underestimates the value of engineering to our nation. In our opinion, the engineering workforce is at the center of national wealth creation and the economic and physical securities we enjoy. We believe engineering will ultimately provide the solutions for a great many of the problematic issues in today’s complex society.

The purpose of this paper is to recognize the many benefits provided by the engineering workforce that contribute to the freedoms and securities we enjoy today and to make a case for growing both our nation’s engineering capability and capacity through a structured program that encourages the induction of new engineers and places priority on specific life-long learning opportunities.

Ascendancy of the U.S. within the global economy over the past hundred years can be related to a number of factors from entrepreneurial spirit to an abundance of natural resources. A major factor is that the U.S. has been at the forefront of systems engineering, even to the point of defining and developing products and technologies whose manufacture and ultimate refinement are associated with other countries.

Egbert, N., & Keating, D. (2007, June), Enabling The U.S. Engineering Workforce For Technological Innovation: The Value Of Engineering To The Nation's Growth And Security Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1648

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