Business News Sat, 30 Oct 2010

Engineering, MDGs And National Dev't

(Concluding Part)

Continued from last week

By Dr. Robert Adjaye

LESSONS FROM THE ASIAN TIGERS: The key to this developmental challenge is

to maximize economic efficiency by using technically literate workforce (to run

modern technologies), and the skills of engineers to develop efficient and

reliable national infrastructure (water supply, transport, energy supply, waste

management etc.). These are some of the key lessons from the Asian Tigers.

First: The development plans and objectives must be suitable and appropriate for

the particular country’s circumstances and needs.

Second: Governments must be facilitators by creating the right environment, and

in some cases even intervene directly, to achieve these developmental objectives

Third: High investment in human capital development, especially science,

engineering and technology, is a pre-requisite for sustainable growth. In

India, engineering colleges and business schools have been growing at about 20%

and 60% per year, respectively.

Fourth: Governments must implement policies to achieve sustained and rapid

economic growth to develop the infrastructure, create new business

opportunities, higher incomes, and increased wealth. This requires capable and

effective management of the macro economy and the private sector, and export

oriented economic growth.

Fifth: Sustained economic growth requires strong governments and leaders


committed to national, not personal interests, over a sustained period of time

and promotion of competition to stimulate innovation.

Sixth: The eradication of poverty requires two broad types of strategies:

expansion of the economy and government-run affirmative action programmes

targeted to the poor.

THE ENGINEER AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH: In looking at the future, we need to have a

better understanding of how building the human capital base of engineering

expertise is inextricably linked with sustainable growth, engineering

renaissance and national development. Human resources are the most sustainable

resources any nation has, and so the priority for developing nations should be

how to make engineering appropriate and sustainable.

Engineering Education and Training: When considering engineering education and

training and the future role of engineers, it will be instructive to refer to a

definition and quotation from the USA National Academy of Engineering. It


“Engineering is problem recognition, formulation, and solution. In the next 20

years, engineering and engineering students will be required to use new tools

and apply ever-increasing knowledge in expanding engineering disciplines, all

while considering societal repercussions and constraints within a complex

landscape of old and new ideas. ….. The engineers of 2020 will be actively

involved in political and community arenas. They will understand workforce

constraints, and they will recognize education and training requirements

necessary for dealing with customers and the broader public. Engineering will

need to expand its reach and thought patterns and political influence if it is


to fulfill its potential to help create a better world for our children and


Thus we need to refocus our attention on the production of sufficient number of

engineering expertise, capable of problem recognition, formulation and solution,

if we are to ensure sustainable economic growth and attainment of the MDGs.

Tertiary Education and Human Capacity Building: “National development and

corporate growth, higher standards of living are all inextricably tied up with

technological advancement. Developing countries need a technologically educated

work force and society. This should commence with a solid grounding in science

and mathematics so that students can make informed choices later in their

further education. There is the need for improved technical literacy. This

should include among other things, a hands on learning approach, with reference

to application of engineering in real life and its contribution to the societal

good, making engineering fashionable, creation of better incentives with tax

concessions for firms offering training facilities for students, and commercial

exploitation of research findings.

Science, mathematics and engineering must be packaged as “fashionable” subjects

and not necessarily perceived as difficult and boring subjects to be avoided.”

Engineering Population: Strong performing economies, e.g. India,

China, Malaysia , Turkey and South Korea , etc. have one thing in common, i.e.

a commitment to engineering. In 2002, the OECD national mean criteria for the

proportion of total graduates with higher level tertiary qualifications and

lower level engineering qualifications were 13.3% and 16.3%, respectively.

Rapidly developing countries such as South Korea and China have much higher

proportions – around one-third in engineering.


As stated in the World Development Report 2005 and 2002 OECD report, a strong

Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) base is necessary for development.

This requires increased number of engineers per population. The estimate of

about one Ghanaian engineer for about 13,000 people compares less favourably

with that of one engineer for about 300 Japanese, and an Indian average of one

engineer for about 160 people. A sizeable increase in the number of engineers

will require Government to make changes to school curricula by providing solid

grounding in science and mathematics to enable students make informed choices

later in life. School curricula should include, inter alia, practical works

with references to the application of engineering to real life situations and

its contribution to the public good.

In conclusion, we need to draw lessons from the experience of both developed and

emerging economies and adapt them to local conditions to build the human capital

necessary for engineering renaissance, sustainable growth and national

development. This includes:

Increased investment in human capital with emphasis on Science, Engineering and

Technology (SET) to cope with national development plans and global

technological challenges.

Revision of school syllabi using wherever possible local and practical examples,

to make mathematics, science and engineering relevant and 'fashionable'.

Creation of a Presidential Commission on Science, Engineering and Technology and

adoption of an appropriate national SET policy.

Enactment of an Engineering Bill to regulate the practice of engineering to

promote the growth of domestic engineering skills, industries and local content

in the oil/gas industry.

Training of engineers should place as much emphasis on development of

entrepreneurship, managerial and leadership skills as on the normal core

engineering subjects.

Engineers should be responsive to the milieux they operate in, and be prepared

to assume a leading role in formulating national policies and activities to

create the renaissance engineer and a buoyant economic and sustainable national


Government should support Science, Engineering and Technology by introducing tax

incentives for training of students and graduates, and venture capital for

commercial exploitation of research findings.

Government can facilitate growth by selecting certain key areas and challenging

engineers to come up with solutions while at the same time identifying and

supporting all the interlinking businesses.

Lastly, Ghanaians should be prepared to make the necessary attitudinal change to

embrace the search for engineering capital building, excellence and renaissance

for sustainable national development and prosperity.

The Author, Dr. Robert Adjaye is an Engineering Consultant and Past President of

The Ghana Institution of Engineers. He is also the Rector of The Petroleum

Skills Development Institute in Accra. E-mail: radjaye@yahoo.com

The Business Analyst

Source: Business Analyst