ET Takes the Hill
With a national platform, engineering technology leaders work to convince Congress and federal agencies of the need for change in licensure and government employment rules.
By Patricia Fox
For nearly half a century, engineering technology deans, department and program heads, and others have been gathering annually at the Engineering Technology Leaders Institute (ETLI). Generally held in October, ETLI is a forum to discuss issues in ET education. The institute is sponsored by the ASEE Engineering Technology Council (ETC), which represents ET institutions. ASEE institutional membership is open to colleges that have at least one accredited engineering technology program. Eligible institutional members include four- and two-year engineering technology colleges and college affiliates.
For 37 of the past 44 years, ETLI was held at different institutions. Discussions at those meetings varied, but generally the agenda was set by the host university committee and most of the time included a showcase of the ET programs at that particular university as well as presentations on ET education.
In 2013, the ETC decided to locate ETLI permanently in or near Washington, D.C., and to give the meetings a national focus. This change reflected the ever expanding role of engineering technology (ET) in the national workforce. It allowed the ETC to forge new relationships with federal policy makers and gave the field heightened visibility nationally. ETC created a new role, ETLI chair, to lead the yearlong ETLI planning. Membership on the planning committee is open to any ET leader who would like to participate. Meetings have been held in Arlington, Va., for the past five years. The meetings were very successful in attracting new leaders, and the sessions were focused on national issues.
Starting in 2018, ETLI has been a full two-day event, including a day on Capitol Hill for attendees. This day begins with a briefing on relevant pending legislation and the current state of play in Washington, D.C. Next, ET leaders meet with members of Congress and their staffs, as well as with committees and caucuses, to inform them about engineering technology education as a pathway to engineering.
These congressional visits have allowed us to raise two issues of major concern to ET educators:
- Access to professional licensure for engineering technology graduates who earn bachelor of science degrees from ABET-accredited programs.
- The need for modification of federal rules—specifically, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Engineering Qualification Standard (GS-0800)—so that an ABET-accredited engineering technology bachelor’s degree would count as meeting “basic requirements” for entry-level professional engineering positions with the government.
Included in the day on Capitol Hill are meetings with federal agency officials, including NSF and Department of Labor. All of these meetings are arranged for ETLI by Lewis-Burke Associates, ASEE’s federal relations partner. The second day’s agenda includes three or four interactive sessions established by the yearlong planning committee, headed by the ETLI chair.
The visits to Capitol Hill and federal agencies have proven to be very successful. A subgroup of ETC is working on a proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program (S-STEM) for a national ET campaign. Other groups are working on drawing attention to ET concerns among those who can influence change. This year’s ETLI theme was “Taking the Next Steps.” Interactive sessions included discussion of a national marketing plan for ET Programs; a panel discussion on the future of ET; dialogue on increasing connections between ET programs and industry; and discussions on how to make recruiting from different pathways work for ET Programs. In addition, the meeting included remarks from the ASEE’s President Stephanie Adams and Executive Director Norman Fortenberry.
ETLI has changed dramatically over the years. Today, it is a vehicle to give ET a national platform. Engineering technology programs are an integral part of education for the engineering profession. ETLI has active participation from ET leaders at both two- and four-year ET colleges. To our other ET colleagues: If you haven’t participated in ETLI in the past, please make sure you participate in the next ETLI on October 8-9, 2020. If you would like to join in the ETLI planning meetings, please contact the chair of ETLI, Hugh Jack, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ET leaders are taking the next steps. Are you a part of that discussion?
Patricia Fox, a clinical assistant professor in organizational leadership at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is the immediate past chair of ASEE’s Engineering Technology Council.