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The training of engineers today

What is an engineer today? It is difficult to discuss the training of engineers without having to answer multiple questions about the distinctiveness of our system, and need to clarify a number of assumptions. The specificity of European solutions with a few questionable aspects, is primarily the result of our history, even if the development of engineering courses in the major developed countries has been fairly parallel, mostly from 1860.

The first training set at that time resulted essentially from an application of the economic world, and usually took place in the outskirts of the traditional university system. This was done this way in Germany, which has emerged in the late 19th century with a higher technical school model, later recognized as a technical university. It served as a major inspiration for many European countries and in North America. Since the Second World War little most reference is made commonly to the model of the University of North American research, richly endowed with capital and heavily irrigated in research contracts, one of the distinctive highlights probably being the close proximity between all scientific and engineering disciplines.

In the early 21st century engineering courses are faced with an extremely fast-changing technological and industrial environment, in particular because a majority of manufacturing industries are moving to Asia, the emergence of a new knowledge economy opened by new combinations of rapidly changing technological perspectives, such as electronics and life sciences. They also have to take account of expectations and new societal demands and the reality of a finite world, destabilized to limit the unbridled consumption of natural resources. In this unpredictable environment with high variability, where success depends largely on the ability to do, to do well and to innovate more, the engineering courses have to find a new balance between creative vision of logical combined feed forward, over a traditional adjustment on demand.

Three lines of inspiration can be proposed, which are the potential envelop of a proactive policy in this area:

– Ensure, through institutional options to suit a real strategic responsiveness, without necessarily going through a large advantage (although it can be decisive even essential), ensuring against by the effective permeability of the interfaces, especially between technology and science, and the creation of communities mixing men and women known embodiments, and a management adapted to this new situation,
– Take into account the requirements of engineers to master a more complex job, this is a concrete complexity referring to common sense, a complex modeling, which we know too that it is not sufficient in itself, or social complexity involving acceptance of adversarial to an incipient political sense,
– Be careful not to encourage an excessive functionalist vision of training, you could even add managerial, thinking about the avalanche of standards and frameworks supposed to tell the reference truth to restore all its meaning and its wealth relationship between the scope of training and student training, awaiting motivations and values, even models and encouragement to develop their potential.

If the importance given by a country to its engineering education is often presented as a realistic response to its needs, it can be seen as much in its symbolic dimension, as an expression of faith in our ability to identify and implement innovative and effective solutions for all types of problems.