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Building Tomorrow’s Sustainability Workforce

By October 13, 2022 9:16 amJuly 25th, 2023Voices

By Stephanie Viola
Executive Director, ASME Foundation
Managing Director, ASME Philanthropy

There are two irrefutable facts confronting today’s engineering community. The first is the pervasive shortage of technical talent prepared to meet the workforce demands of Industry 4.0. The second is the imperative to build both environmental and social sustainability into every engineered solution.

Fortunately, there is a clear path forward on both fronts.

ASME’s philanthropic programs are sharply focused on meeting the related challenges of advancing a more equitable and inclusive Workforce 4.0 to build a more sustainable future. Simply put, we will never solve the world’s great problems without harnessing the broadest array of talent drawn from the full spectrum of humanity. That means not only empowering and enabling more women and people of color to become sustainability innovators, but also creating new opportunities for those with two-year degrees and other certifications to enter the technical workforce.

Because it is positioned at the intersection of industry, academia, government, and the non-profit sector, ASME is uniquely able to convene all these stakeholders in a coordinated effort to help make the engineering profession more equitable and the planet more sustainable. We’ve adopted three key strategies to effect this ambitious transformation.

The first strategy is Education that Inspires. This begins with reaching students in the early grades with the message that engineering is a rewarding, exciting, and welcoming profession. It continues with our robust college scholarships program that helps put an engineering education within reach of those for whom tuition may be a formidable barrier. And programs like E-Fest and E-Fest Careers allow engineering students to network with employers and demonstrate their technical and collaborative skills.

Strategy number two is Careers that Matter. ASME’s philanthropic programs include two that help bridge the gap between education and employment, especially for those who are underrepresented in technical fields. ASME’s Community College Education Pathways initiative provides resources to students and faculty at two-year institutions to better align the curriculum with the needs of local employers, and provide internship, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities to students. A related program concentrates resources at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Just this fall, ASME launched FutureME, a comprehensive online career development platform that is the first of its kind in the engineering community, enabling students and early-career engineers to, among other tools, map potential career paths and identify the training and certifications required to pursue them. Eventually the platform will include an employment networking resource to match employers with those seeking technical jobs.

ASME’s programs promoting sustainability fall under the third strategy, Ideas that Innovate. Participants in Engineering for Change, or E4C, and ISHOW, along with its recent spin off, Idea Lab, address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. E4C Fellowships advance both environmental and social sustainability through six-month, technology-driven impact projects around the world. The E4C online platform is a one-million-member innovation community focused on solving the UN SDGs.

Social entrepreneurs look to ISHOW, ASME’s thrice-annual hardware accelerator, to receive design guidance and seed capital to further develop their solutions from prototype to marketplace. Modeled on ISHOW, the recently launched Idea Lab engages entrepreneurs at the earliest stage of the hardware development process.

Education. Career support. Innovative ideas. These are the three strategic pillars of ASME’s philanthropic programs. Based on rigorous tracking and performance data, these initiatives are making a positive difference. Our mission now is to scale them to amplify their global impact.

Fueling that mission is the ASME Foundation’s Campaign for Next Generation Engineers, a five-year, $50 million fundraising effort whose supporters share our belief that a sustainable world is possible, and it will be tomorrow’s more diverse, better prepared engineers who will build it.

Stephanie Viola is executive director of the ASME Foundation and managing director of ASME Philanthropy. Find out more about ASME’s philanthropic programs at