Our Nation's Challenge
“Nationwide, most students are graduating with only a minimal understanding of one of the most powerful forces shaping society today.”
- Report of the International Technology Education Association
The United States is at a critical juncture. There is concern that the nation's preeminence in innovation is eroding. We need a strong, sustainable engineering workforce to remain competitive in the global economy. To attain that goal and to maintain our country's vitality and security, we must expand students' understanding of technology and engineering and increase the attractiveness of careers in these fields so that a diverse array of talented students will pursue them.
According to the Summer 2009 Salary Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), only 4% of college graduates leave with degrees in engineering or computer science.
The key to educating students to thrive in this competitive global economy is introducing them early to the engineering design skills and concepts that will engage them in applying their math and science knowledge to solve real problems. This is the way to harness the creativity of young minds. This is also the process that fuels innovation of new technologies.
According to a September 2009 report by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC), Engineering in K 12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects:
In recent years, educators and policy makers have come to a consensus that the teaching of STEM subjects in U.S. schools must be improved. The focus on STEM topics is closely related to concerns about U.S. competitiveness in the global economy and about the development of a workforce with the knowledge and skills to address technical and technological issues. To date, most efforts to improve STEM education have been concentrated on mathematics and science, but an increasing number of states and school districts have been adding technology education to the mix, and a smaller but signiﬁcant number have added engineering.
In contrast to science, mathematics, and even technology education... teaching of engineering in elementary and secondary schools is still very much a work in progress. Not only have no learning standards been developed, little is available in the way of guidance for teacher professional development, and no national or state-level assessments of student accomplishment have been developed.
What can be done?
The United States has always been about innovation, hard work, and meeting challenges head on, and now it is time for this country to invest in our future by fostering the talent, creativity and energy of our young people and encourage them to study and pursue vital careers in engineering and science.
Engineering also pays. According to NACE's Summer 2009 Salary Survey, engineering disciplines account for four of the five disciplines getting the highest starting salary offers for bachelors degree candidates.
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
We must improve the curriculum of our K-12 schools. By making engineering and technology universally valued and understood, ultimately, the NCTL aims to make a working understanding of the human-made world part of everyone's life. And to make sure that innovation and achievement in engineering and science continue to be an area where the United States excels.
While most people spend 95% of their time interacting with the technologies of the human-made world, few know these products are made through engineering, the missing link that connects science and math with innovation.