NSPE Today: Policy Perspectives
Engineering Education Bill Emphasizes Role of Licensure
BY ARIELLE EISER
NSPE has played a major role in the introduction of a bill that, for the first time, addresses the connection between engineering education and licensure.
On July 7, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and lead cosponsor Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Pre-College Engineering Education Act. Although there have been many STEM bills, until now none of them has specifically addressed the value of PE licensure. NSPE secured a major victory for its members by working with Ryan and his staff to incorporate a provision explicitly emphasizing engineering education as a vital component in attaining licensure as a professional engineer. This legislation (H.R. 5679) is an important component in increasing awareness about the critical role of the professional engineer in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.
To increase awareness of the legislation, NSPE sent an action alert to members, encouraging them to contact their elected officials. The results have been impressive. As of late July, nearly 200 NSPE members contacted 149 congressional offices! NSPE staff is working with Ryan’s office to secure additional cosponsors and move the legislation forward.
In recent years, STEM has deservedly become an important part of the education system. However, the E in STEM is often pushed to the side, if not ignored completely. In fact, only a remarkably paltry 0.4% of the federal STEM annual budget, estimated around $3.5 billion, funds engineering education. NSPE has been working with Ryan and his staff for several months to develop H.R. 5679 to meaningfully improve engineering education—and to put the E back in STEM. The legislation has four main components:
- Establish a grant program at the National Science Foundation to encourage states and local school districts to develop and implement sustainable engineering education programs in elementary and secondary schools;
- Teach students the overall analytical approach used in engineering to prepare them to deal with complex technical and nontechnical problems and issues;
- Introduce students to modern engineering tools such as computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, statistical analysis, and reliability analysis; and
- Emphasize engineering education as a vital component in attaining licensure as a professional engineer, which requires rigorous education, training, experience, and continuing education.
In Ryan’s press release announcing the bill’s introduction, NSPE Immediate Past President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, is quoted: “The licensed professional engineer has the foremost responsibility of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare above all other interests. This is an intrinsic value that we all benefit from and that should be taught to students at all levels of education. The Pre-College Engineering Act takes an important step in underscoring the value and necessity of engineering education by enhancing K–12 engineering education and providing for expanded research to inform best practices. The bill’s goals of teaching students the overall analytical approach used in engineering, increasing participation of underrepresented student groups in the engineering pipeline, and providing professional development for teachers to teach engineering are critical to cultivating the next generation of engineers.”
As professional engineers know all too well, it is very challenging to increase public awareness about the PE’s value and role in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. To have bipartisan legislation emphasize licensure from the early stages of education is a pivotal victory. The Pre-College Engineering Education Act recognizes the rigorous requirements and key skills for PE licensure and is a step toward increasing the engineering pipeline for future generations.
Arielle Eiser is NSPE’s senior government relations manager.