I have been thinking a lot about our country lately — about the best of the American spirit: unbridled optimism, faith in ingenuity, the certainty that we can make the future better. And the generosity that it can be better — for everyone.
I have also been thinking about all the problems and the relentless pessimism all around us.
The thing about engineers is that we don’t just see problems. We see puzzles waiting to be solved. Opportunities, really. Engineers believe pessimism is just a distraction from the work that must get done.
I like that. Engineers and the best of the American spirit have a lot in common.
So what is the “work” ahead for all of us? How can we contribute to a better future — for everyone.
Engineering has a profound and positive impact on almost every part of human life: medicine, communications, transportation, water, food, and on and on. The existential issue at the top of that list is climate change. This is a challenge to be solved by engineers and technical professionals. And our lives depend on it.
We are all counting on the technical workforce of the 21st century to be the great problem-solvers we need. And yet, there are over 3 million technical jobs open right now in just the US. At this critical moment when we can’t afford to leave any talent behind, today only 9% of the US mechanical engineers are women, only 11% are BIPOC, and only 4% are African American. This is not only ethically wrong, it is robbing the future of the technical talent we so critically need.
What I know is that we cannot count on others to solve this problem. Government has a role, of course, as do engineering schools. But to right this wrong, and to create the workforce we need, corporate America has to do more.
The private sector must help build its own future workforce.
So how do you build an engineer? How do we build the best trained, most capable workforce for the 21st Century? How do we create the new pathways to finally include the vitally needed talent from underserved and underrepresented communities?
The ASME Foundation knows how: by empowering diverse next generation engineers with breakthrough programs in three areas: engineering education, career resources, and support for launching early innovation.
The ASME Foundation offers inspiring educational introductions to the wonders of engineering. This begins early and it is fun. We bring our K-12 programs to young people who do not yet know that there is a place for them in STEM. Beyond K-12, the ASME Foundation education programs include exciting design competitions, college scholarships, and a leadership role in making college curriculum current with the latest technology.
Next the ASME Foundation helps launch and nourish young careers. The Foundation provides guidance, networking, and employment resources to engineering students and early-career professionals — resources like HBCU Engineering Pathways, Community College Engineering Pathways and ASME Fellowships in teaching, public policy, and sustainable development.
And finally, the ASME Foundation supports innovation in sustainability by helping young engineers and entrepreneurs turn their brilliant ideas into tested prototypes — and then into life changing, new products ready to be brought to market and to scale. This is done through ASME’s Engineering for Change fellowships, E4C Impact Projects, the E4C worldwide digital community, as well as ASME’s ISHOW and IDEA Lab hardware accelerator programs.
Education. Careers. Innovation. This is the work of the ASME Foundation.
These programs have been carefully curated and refined to meet aspiring engineers and technical professionals where they are: at all the critical junctures along the journey to a productive career.
The ASME Foundation is already changing the lives and trajectory of so many underserved and underrepresented kids. This work supports a just and equitable profession. And in harnessing the full spectrum of technical brilliance — a sustainable world is possible — for everyone.
So what can individuals and corporations do to help? Three things.
First, the ASME Foundation needs your financial support. These proven and powerful programs are ready to scale in significant ways. Serious investment in the future will have a measurable impact on the companies you serve and the communities where you live.
Second, the ASME Foundation needs your internships and entry-level technical jobs. The Foundation has a pipeline of amazing young people on an engineering and technical path — from HBCUs, Community Colleges, and universities across the country. But they need their first professional step forward. These are not kids who are part of any “old boys network.” But they are remarkable, and they need that first hand up into a professional environment.
Finally, the ASME Foundation welcomes your expertise. We are looking for leaders in the corporate community to share their knowledge and counsel and contacts to make the work of the Foundation as relevant and effective as possible.
There are plenty of things in the world we cannot change right now. But here’s what we can change — together we can create a larger technical workforce. A more equitable technical workforce. And because diversity drives innovation — a more brilliant workforce.
Central to the best of the American character is a belief in the promise of a better future — for everyone. That faith is buoyed by all the possibility of the ingenuity of tomorrow’s engineers.
Engineers are the ultimate optimists. Where others see problems, we see challenges. To us, every obstacle is an opportunity. A diverse, just, and equitable engineering workforce is possible. So is a productive and sustainable world.
All we need to get from here to there is faith in a better future — a willingness to invest in it — and our collective can-do optimism that is the very heart of our American spirit.