Access to engineering education

Format: Panel discussion

  1. Panelist: Matthew Harrison
    Affiliation: The Royal Academy of Engineering, UK
    Title: Tackling under-representation in engineering
    Abstract: In the UK there is renewed interest in improving social mobility amongst those in the lower half of the socio-economic scale. The UK Government has looked to the professions, including engineering, to lead on this work. Whilst engineering has a good reputation for creating many routes into the profession (higher education, further education and vocational routes) it has not made as much progress on recruiting from under-represented groups: women and those from lower socio-economic groups in particular. However, there are evaluated initiatives underway which suggest some potential solutions to under-representation in engineering. These are reviewed and in the context of what is known about how people choose their careers and the subjects they study along the way.
  2. Panelist: Lisa McLoughlin
    Affiliation: Greenfield Community College, US
    Title: Community College Engineering Students
    Abstract: Ideally engineering design involves a combination of abstract and practical skills, but as currently taught in the United States, it involves much more academic abstraction than practical ability. My research explores the relationship between these two areas of expertise, their relative emphasis in the undergraduate engineering curriculum, and their instantiation within engineering student identity. Engineering students who enter the field through community college pathways evince a different balance between academic and practical skills than traditional four-year school students. They have often attended vocational or deficient college-preparatory high schools, or have worked in the trades before returning to school as nontraditional students. This leaves community college students with more academic deficiencies at the start of their engineering education than traditional 4-year college students, but also with strengths in practical technical competencies. Community colleges offer these students, who are generally from under-privileged socio-economic classes, a way into the engineering education pathway, but little research has been done on their experiences in engineering programs. Experiences detailed during this discussion will offer some beginning insights into how these students are challenged by engineering in a design-based introductory class, and what strengths they bring to the processes of problem solving and design, along with suggestions for recruiting, retaining, and transferring students to and from the community college into 4-year engineering programs.