By Heather Bené, President of The Science Coalition
As we near the end of this year’s National Engineers Week, let us take a moment to celebrate America’s engineers – past, present, and future.
Engineering is an essential part of the broader science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, touching almost every part of the world we know. In the 20th century, engineers shaped our country with achievements that have become part of our everyday lives including electricity, cars, phones, and computers. These talented men and women are responsible for tremendous advancements in infrastructure and technology, not to mention their integral role in keeping America a global leader in innovation. Maintaining this progress, however, requires a commitment to recruiting and training young Americans to pursue a career in engineering.
A recent study found that although current students are “twice as likely to study STEM fields compared to their parents, the number of roles requiring STEM expertise is growing at a rate that exceeds current workforce capacity. In manufacturing alone… the U.S. will need to fill about 3.5 million jobs by 2025; yet as many as 2 million of those jobs may go unfilled, due to difficulty finding people with the skills in demand.” These workforce demands extend to engineering, as the U.S. Department of Labor expects the country will need to fill 139,300 additional engineering jobs over the next six years.
America’s leading public and private research universities, including the more than 50 members of The Science Coalition, are at the forefront of training the next generation of engineers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. The University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science is one of these institutions. The college boasts 18 engineering degrees and is one of the top ranked engineering schools in the nation. In the fall of 2018, the college enrolled more than 7,000 students, a dramatic increase from 4,625 in 2010. By 2022, the college plans to be the first public engineering college with a 50 percent women undergraduate population. Its 2018 freshman class was over 40 percent female, up from 32 percent just two years prior.
The University of Colorado Boulder also hosts a prestigious group of faculty in engineering – 23 current and emeritus faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which honors engineers who have made outstanding contributions to the field. This month, Professor Penina Axelrad became the newest member from the College.
Axelrad, an aerospace engineering professor, was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Air Force related to position, navigation, and timing challenges in small spacecrafts. Axelrad’s leadership in engineering at CU Boulder does not stop there – last year she received funding from the U.S. Department of Education for a program focused on growing the representation of women and underrepresented minority students in advanced aerospace education.
As is the case with Axelrad’s work, the federal government is one of the largest drivers in STEM research and development. In fiscal year 2018, the federal government awarded tens of billions of dollars in competitive grants to the best and brightest university researchers for fundamental scientific research that will improve human health and well-being, create new energy technologies, protect our environment, and modernize our nation’s national defense. Investments from agencies including the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and more, drive American discovery, innovation, and our future economic prosperity.
The Science Coalition celebrates the dedicated professionals, researchers, students, and institutions advancing the STEM field during this year’s National Engineers Week. Their leadership and ingenuity underscore that robust, sustained, and predictable federal investment in STEM research and education is pivotal to training and growing a skilled workforce capable of shaping tomorrow’s world. To learn more about how to support engineering and other STEM fields, visit our website.