Engineering a new generation

Today’s economy is characterized by rapid change and complexity. This is particularly true for the design and construction industry. Whether vertical or horizontal, new facility and infrastructure projects are subject to a host of considerations that barely registered a decade ago.
The broad range of stakeholders involved throughout the course of a construction project, key environmental and safety constraints, and tight budget demands are but a few of the "new rules of the game."
Addressing this increased complexity will require continued integration of services. True service integration will require much more than simply coordinating design and construction functions, but will also focus on such functions as asset management, operations and maintenance, real estate, financing, insurance, repair, and disposal, among others.
Owners are becoming increasingly sophisticated about their technical and managerial options.
As we look to the future, our formal engineering curriculum is not preparing the next generation of students to assume these responsibilities. Whereas other disciplines have recognized the need to increase the quantity as well as the quality of technical training to prepare for the demands of the 21st century, the civil engineering community has not effectively met this challenge.
Our core curriculum remains at four years, while other related disciplines (architecture, accounting, etc.) require a fifth or even a sixth year to attain even a basic level of competency.
Civil engineers have come to the realization that with the reductions in credit hours required for graduation coupled with the increased technical complexity and rising client expectations, the current four-year bachelor’s degree is becoming inadequate as the formal academic preparation for the future practice of civil engineering.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has been working for over a decade on redressing this problem. One important initiative is the development of the Body of Knowledge (BOK) for Civil Engineering. The BOK is defined as the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to enter the practice of civil engineering at the professional level (licensure).
The BOK consists of 15 technical and professional outcomes. The report recommendations follow three themes: what should be taught and learned; how it should be taught and learned; and who should teach it. The full report can be found at
ASCE is working with the education, accreditation and licensing communities as well as the other engineering disciplines and other societies to ensure that the BOK will thoroughly prepare the next generation of engineers.
Thirteen universities have become "curricula design partners" with ASCE to help evaluate the BOK and design curriculum that leads to the attainment of the BOK.
According to Richard Bub, P.E., S.E., president of Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer & Associates Inc., Milwaukee, when they hire a new bachelor’s graduate, the applicant is immediately encouraged to return to school and work to obtain a master’s degree. That is because the knowledge base required to be successful in the field of civil engineering has increased.
As we develop new and more efficient delivery methods, work in an increasingly globalized community and use new technologies, we must equip ourselves with the appropriate knowledge and skills. The development of the BOK is one step to help us as a profession prepare for tomorrow.
Jeffrey S. Russell, P.E., is currently chair of the Construction Engineering and Management Division within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He will assume the position of chair of the department in July. Russell also serves as Chair of ASCE’s Committee on Academic Prerequisites for Professional Practice. You can reach him at or 608-262-7244.
April 30, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

Sign up for the BizTimes email newsletter

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display