Learning Experience

We appreciate the numerous letters and e-mails from readers in response to our special issue, "Looking at Construction Education in Colleges and Universities" ( ENR 10/21 p. 6). Many, particularly alumni, were concerned about omissions in the separate listings of U.S. architecture, civil engineering and construction schools. We have already responded to individual concerns.

The civil engineering schools list, new for 2002, is based on information taken from a survey form mailed last spring to civil engineering departments and programs in more than 200 colleges and universities. Our mailing list was provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The list of 117 schools included in the issue was compiled from all institutions that returned a completed form to us in time for deadline. It is not a quality-based ranking.

In an effort to be inclusive, we invite civil engineering schools not on the print list to provide us information that will allow them to be included in the listings that are now available on the ENR Website, enr.com. We will update the listings periodically aswe receive information from additional schools. Please e-mail Barbara Nathaniel at nathanie@mcgraw-hill.com to receive a copy of the survey form that can be printed and returned to us by fax.

The list of architecture schools was adapted from a survey conducted by our sister publication, Architectural Record magazine, earlier this year that is also based on surveys returned. Results can be found in more detail at www.archrecord.com.

The list of construction schools is reprinted from ENR’s Oct. 29, 2001, issue and is included in the education report as a service to students and others. Information in that list may have changed since initial publication. An update survey is planned in 2003.

Please direct questions and any additional comment on the surveys to Managing Senior Editor Debra K. Rubin, rubind@mcgraw-hill.com. We appreciate suggestions as we revise the survey form for the future and cover trends and issues in construction education.

Education In Construction

I found the current trends described in the ENR issue on civil engineering, architecture and construction education to be informative about today’s university education environment.

The article covering design-build trends and teamwork in education discusses how "students gain an understanding of how difficult it is to build what they draw." While difficult, we have found that teams of civil engineering students love the challenge of designing and building a steel bridge as evidenced by the Student Steel Bridge Competition, now in its 15th year, and involving some 170 universities.

Sending out your 10/21 issue to some 10,000 high schools will generate greater interest in civil engineering, construction and architecture.

You could cut the irony with a knife! After many pages of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that college students either drop out or change their majors from civil engineering, you run three full-page color ads from the National Electrical Contractors Association/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers telling young people to skip college altogether and make big bucks by joining the electricians’ union!

What was immediately noticeable in reading through the listings and the various advertisements that are interspersed in the listings is the extreme discrepancy between the starting salaries of civils, with an educational investment of $20,000 or more, and the technical trades in the construction industry.

Two ads from the NECA/IBEW show salaries of at least 50% more, with no college education, than the starting salaries of the civil engineers listed on the facing pages. This discrepancy is mentioned briefly in the article, but it appears that the salary potential may have a much greater adverse impact on the number of civil engineering graduates than is implied in the article. And, when one analyzes the relative cost of living and tuition against the salary potential, the impact is even greater.

As another young female engineer, I was disturbed to see the picture of a Polytechnic University student wearing her hard hat incorrectly. It was too far back on her head, presumably so her hair wouldn’t be messed up. Images like this perpetuate the "girly-girl" reputation of not taking work or safety seriously that so many of us are fighting.

Congratulations on a tremendous issue. Hopefully, this will become an annual event.

I read with interest your articles about the drastic decline in civil engineering enrollments. The articles did not specifically mention other engineering disciplines, but I suspect that they may be experiencing similar declines. This phenomenon appears to have caught some people in the industry by surprise.

But it’s no surprise at all to this former engineer. The current situation is merely a symptom of our free market correcting itself. The best and the brightest American-born young people today are aware that there are simply better opportunities in areas other than engineering. Your article is based on the assumption that the cause of this phenomenon is primarily poorly trained instructors or other academic failings. That is simply off target. The fact that there is no generally accepted definition of an "engineer" is a symptom of the problem.

Many schools do not have even 50% of their faculty as licensed professional engineers. I would be willing to venture a guess that the percentage of medical school faculty or law school professors who are not licensed to practice their professions is essentially non-existent.

I believe that engineering has the potential to be on a par with the true, learned professions in the U.S. But in its present condition, engineering is merely a shell of what it could be. This fact is not unknown to our young people in this age of information. If nothing is done, I believe the current trend will worsen. But if the industry gathers itself and makes necessary changes, the best and the brightest will undoubtedly return.

I applaud your efforts to promote architecture, engineering and construction [education] programs. Your editorial concerning the relevancy of these professional programs could not be more on target, but that, unfortunately, is only the tip of the iceberg.

How many promising constructors, engineers and architects have we lost well before their entrance through those ivy-covered gates? How many young people have given up, lost hope and altered their paths because their high school curriculum lacked that same relevancy?

This industry must step up to the plate and support the nation’s educational endeavor. The time for talking has long passed. Our expertise needs to be harnessed by educators at all levels to integrate the real world into classroom instruction. The Associated General Contractors of America learned this lesson decades ago and has consciously developed educational programs and initiatives to ensure that our expertise is available to all segments of the educational community.

It is time we all commit to bringing the real world of construction to the classroom and giving future industry leaders a solid foundation upon which to build.

While I fully agree there is a lack of interest in the construction industry for high school students, that is not my main concern. For future industry leaders, some basic courses should be added to introduce these students to the role that education, safety and health can play in benefitting a company’s bottom line.

In your own article, there is a picture of students installing roof trusses (p. 27). Everything in this picture violates present U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. These are future leaders, and they are learning the unsafe way to construct a building.

Several years ago, the National Safety Management Society tried to have es&h programs introduced into engineering schools, but educators made the assumption was that these were not as valuable in the pursuit of corporate excellence as other management courses, and the programs were not considered.

CORRECTION

The following corrections should be made for data contained in the listings of U.S. civil engineering schools (ENR 10/21 p. 14):

The percentage of civil engineering students who were retained from the freshman year to the sophomore year at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., should be 90%, instead of 10%.

The percentage decline in the number of undergraduate civil engineering students enrolled at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in 2001-2002 vs. 1997-1998 should be 28%, not 83%.