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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

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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


states:


“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

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


grandchildren.


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.

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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


development.


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