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IEEE-USA President's Column

 

JANUARY 2007


John W. Meredith, P.E.
2007 IEEE-USA President

Competitiveness
IEEE-USA's Strategic Focus for 2007

Greetings and best wishes for the New Year to all from your new IEEE-USA president. I wish to thank 2006 IEEE-USA President Ralph Wyndrum and the many volunteers and staff who have given me so much help and support in picking up my new responsibilities. It is a pleasure to work with so many committed volunteers, and a capable and dedicated IEEE-USA staff. Together we can make a difference in making IEEE-USA's vision become reality a vision that translates into more productive and enjoyable careers for U.S. engineers whose endeavors benefit all who use their products and services. This will happen through the career resources IEEE-USA provides, and the public policy decisions that it helps to shape. I want to share my goals and perspectives on the coming year.

My greatest concern is globalization and its impact on U.S. engineers. Our profession within the United States is in a continuing struggle to deal with the effects of global competition. While the U.S. economy has shown improvement since the infamous dot-com bust of 2000-01, our national competitiveness in the high-tech sector is increasingly challenged. Before I continue, allow me to offer a definition of competitiveness as it relates to our nation. Competitiveness can be defined as a concerted drive to compete with other countries in selling our goods and services, resulting to maintain or improve our standard of living. So my highest priority is to take steps to ensure the competitiveness of U.S. industry in our fields of interest. This is a big challenge because developing countries are now competing in jobs that are higher up the high-tech "food chain."

We have seen the effects of global competition in the high-tech world for a number of years. This competition was initially in manufacturing but is now moving more and more into design and development work. Because labor rates are lower in many countries that compete with the United States, we are losing high-tech jobs. We must act strategically as a nation to improve U.S. competitiveness. This is necessary to preserve jobs for U.S. engineers and to maintain the standard of living that Americans have enjoyed for several generations.

IEEE-USA is addressing the competitiveness challenge through a long-term, four-pronged strategic focus that was initiated by my predecessor, President Wyndrum. I will continue on this path with a goal of ensuring that the United States maintains its place as a global competitor in the technology sector. Elements of this plan fall in line with a study concluded in late 2005 by the National Academies. The study is summarized in the executive summary of the report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. See www.nap.edu/execsumm_pdf/11463.pdf.

Our first focus is to urge Congress to enact comprehensive legislation that promotes U.S. innovation and competitiveness. In addition we will be launching the IEEE-USA Innovation Institute in 2007. The Institute will promote innovation through training and mentoring tomorrow's technology leaders. IEEE-USA will also continue to promote immigration reforms that will enable our country to admit technical talent as new Americans rather than as "guest workers." Part of this thrust in immigration reform will be aimed at correcting significant flaws that exist in the H-1B visa program. You can read more about our Innovation Initiative at www.innovation-institute.org/.

A parallel thrust is to provide practicing engineers with tools and resources that support their career endeavors. We will support and enhance tools such as the IEEE-USA Employment Navigator (www.ieeeusa.org/careers/employmentnavigator/) , with its several million job listings, resume tools and other career resources. IEEE-USA will continue to host career enhancement workshops and will encourage engineers to make use of such resources as the IEEE-USA Consultants Network (www.ieeeusa.org/business/startnetwork.asp), Salary Service (salaryapp.ieeeusa.org/rt/salary_database/about/salaryservice) and Entrepreneurs Village (www.ieeeusa.org/careers/entrepreneurs/). An area of particular importance is the mid-career engineer and late-career engineers. This area is often overlooked as a career enhancement opportunity. I'm hopeful that we can find innovative ways to assist those in this stage of their careers.

The third focus is continuing education. The IEEE is collaborating with the IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB) to provide the best of IEEE's educational content through one-hour online learning modules, and to access some 6,000 courses from more than a dozen providers. IEEE-USA also offers 29 so-called "soft-skills" courses. Further, we are adding a one-day tutorial program to our annual IEEE-USA meeting that provides opportunities for engineers to learn about emerging technologies in a face-to-face setting. We will also identify and promote resources that enable practitioners to maintain their technical vitality. One outstanding resource I invite all readers to investigate is Mike Stanley's Web site, www.eehomepage.com. This site contains technical information and tutorials on a wide range of topics, as well as career development information. These educational resources are important for engineers at any career stage.

Finally, we are focusing on precollege education to ensure that America has an ample supply of the best and brightest practitioners to follow us. IEEE-USA will continue to work with EAB in building stronger science and mathematics programs in precollege curricula throughout the country. We are also promoting many excellent programs that will inspire our youth to study engineering, math and science. One such program is PBS' new engineering reality show Design Squad, a TV program that will be launched during Engineers Week (18-24 February). Design Squad (http://pbskids.org/designsquad/) is a program where youth compete against each other in solving an engineering challenge. Another resource is the IEEE-supported Web site TryEngineering (www.tryengineering.org), designed for youth who are exploring engineering as a career.

As IEEE-USA implements the programs and initiatives that I have highlighted, I urge grassroots activities focused on improving competitiveness. Countless initiatives and programs can have an impact on competitiveness. For starters, I recommend that you read the Rising Above the Gathering Storm executive summary, which makes 20 recommendations for improving U.S. competitiveness. From there, I challenge all to action in one of the following areas:

  • Contact your state and national legislators and urge them to take action to improve competitiveness.
  • Organize activities for local youth and teachers aimed at improving math and science programs for youth. Get the word out on resources such as TryEngineering and Design Squad.
  • Organize town hall meetings to promote the competitiveness message.
  • Provide easily accessible workshops, tutorials and other resources for local engineers on technical and career development topics.

Finally, I urge all readers to take personal responsibility for their own competitiveness. Constantly seek new knowledge and tools to help you be a better engineer. Ensure that your contributions are valuable to your employer and support your colleagues and fellow employees in their endeavors. That way, the force of everyone's efforts is multiplied.

Please feel free to contact me (president@ieeeusa.org) or other members of our volunteer leadership, and I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year.

 

Updated:  29 September 2011
Contact: Pender M. McCarter, p.mccarter@ieee.org

 

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