Continuing Engineering Education Who Needs It?
Amongst practitioners there are inherent uncertainties and instabilities associated with CEE, which out of enthusiasm or commitment, it is all too easy to down play or overlook. Some of these issues and their impact are explored. A debate continues about the nature, context and curricula of undergraduate engineering education. Amongst other influences this is driven by the rapid expansion in knowledge and changes in practices, concerns about attracting students into the engineering profession and the changing requirements of employers. However, these debates are frequently conducted without reference to a wider concept that a first degree should be just the start of a career-long education process. To how many university leaders is the provision of CEE important to their institute’s mission? The response may not be flattering! Not all universities involved in engineering education have similar missions, priorities or profiles, but they should all be making appropriate contributions to CEE. Top university management frequently see CEE as ancillary to its mission and abhors the uncertain nature of such activities. However, there are many actions that could make CEE more central to the role of the universities, which should be developed. Engineers bring diverse skill sets to the workforce and have been critical to the success of many businesses, both large and small. However, a common cry is of a lack of suitable engineers. There are potential solutions that might rectify such shortages, but some will take time to have an impact. The world is changing fast, the size of the professional engineering staff at many companies is declining, and the potential of lifetime employment within a corporation is no longer a model. This influences the employer’s vision of long-term development and hence more responsibility must rest with the individual engineer. Currently CEE structures do not necessarily recognize this. As practitioners it is incumbent to highlight these issues and engage with varied groups that influence their outcomes. If we fail to do so, should we complain if CEE is as it is? This paper will address some of these key issues, using where relevant, examples from a research-based university CEE program.