With engineering skills in global demand, and increasing concerns about where the next generation of engineering professionals will come from, a career in engineering offers more exciting prospects than ever.
A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation from 2010 estimated that the number of students graduating in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) would need to increase by 20-30% by 2016 in order to meet the projected growth of the US economy.
What’s great news for engineering graduates is that their prospects are not limited to the engineering sector. Businesses across all industries are increasingly seeking out engineers to join their teams. But why are engineers the hottest ticket in town? What makes the combination of engineering skills and business sense attractive to employers? The Growth of Engineering in the Business Sector –
The bottom line for all types of engineers is that they make things work. Whether it’s inventing a solution to a problem or developing a new piece of technology, you can be sure that an engineer is behind it.The combination of strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and creativity underpins all successful engineers. The programs of education undertaken by engineering students support the development of these skills as well as enhancing their ability to translate highly technical jargon into everyday language.
Having strong competence in math is essential for all types of engineers. Being able to complete complex mathematical problems quickly is a skill which is applicable in many business contexts.Engineers are also problem solvers,and this makes them the go-to guy or girl for many companies. Having someone in your team, or even leading it, who can figure out what is causing a problem and then come up with a workable solution, is a major boost to performance whatever your business.
But engineers are much more than just ‘fixers.’ Engineers are creative people who dare to dream – and then make the dream work.They also design, invent, created processes, and build.
Translating engineering skills into business
Historically, engineers have played a leading part in establishing and running some of America’s most significant companies.
Henry Ford, Herbert Hoover and John Frank Stevens (pivotal in the construction of the Panama Canal) were all engineers. But in the years since the 1940s, the number of engineers spearheading businesses has declined. This has been a cultural shift with the popularity of careers in commerce having risen at the expense of industrial-focused vocations.
While today, around 20% of Fortune 500 companies do have an engineer in charge, the discipline of engineering should be providing many more big league CEOs.Elon Musk, American business mogul, investor and inventor outlined his views about where the next generation of business leaders should be coming from.
“The path to the CEO’s office should not be through the CFO’s office, and it should not be through the marketing department. It needs to be through engineering and design.”
Making the switch
Getting engineers to think about a career in business is the first step to achieving a broader transformation.Encouraging young engineers at an early stage in their studies to embrace the world of business is a challenge – many students find the curriculum of the engineering management degree demanding enough without taking on additional courses.
Colleges and universities need to work with employers to provide leadership opportunities for engineers in a way which complements the wider curriculum. Programs like Lean LaunchPad at Stanford, where engineering students receive tuition directly from world-class entrepreneurs, need to be adopted right across the country.
Engineers find solutions – and getting more engineers into business could be a great solution to the challenge of growing the economy and creating more jobs.