The engineer of the future will need to possess skills not commonly taught in engineering schools today. However, we can see that the curricula for a majority of engineering schools are beginning to change. Many schools are starting to adopt alternative learning strategies to engage more and more bright students who may not have previously chosen engineering as a career path. The engineering schools have started to realize that technology is moving at such a rapid rate that they must prepare students differently than they have in the past. Engineers of the future must possess skills like innovation, entrepreneurial vision, and teamwork. These aren’t traits that have commonly been attributed to engineering, but the rate of technological change has been so rapid that most college courses become obsolete by the time students graduate. Key intangible traits will help these graduates thrive by enabling them to learn new skills long after the college experience is over.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the origin of the word “engineer” is derived as follows: “words engine and ingenious are derived from the same Latin root, ingenerare, which means ‘to create.’ The early English verb engine meant ‘to contrive.’” Thus the engines of war were devices such as catapults, floating bridges, and assault towers; their designer was the “engine-er,” or military engineer. The counterpart of the military engineer was the civil engineer, who applied essentially the same knowledge and skills to designing buildings, streets, water supplies, sewage systems, and other projects.” This initial derivation of the name engineer is most definitely outdated due in part to the massive amounts of technical change that have occurred from the industrial age to the information age. Engineers are being called upon to be more nimble and agile in the sense that the knowledge gained one day is often obsolete the next due to the rate of discovery.
As history commonly repeats itself, engineers will be shifting into more leadership roles within corporations, similar to engineers’ migration into business in the industrial age. Like the industrial age, the information age is a time of immense technological innovation. In the second industrial age, engineers like Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi were all known for their skills in engineering and business. Now we’re approaching our “fourth industrial revolution” as coined by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. The fourth industrial revolution, according to Schwab, “is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital, and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies, and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” This is an exciting time not only to be alive, but to be an engineer. You can see the shift that has come with this revolution with engineers such as Mary Barra, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos taking positions as business moguls with an ever-increasing emphasis on furthering the pursuit of technological advancement.