Global Engineering Capability Review

Executive Summary

The field of engineering is broad, evolving and integral to the promotion of human development and economic growth. Engineers play a critical role in designing and developing infrastructure, systems and processes that make the world safer, and ultimately support the achievement of broader social milestones such as the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, engineering will also drive innovation and help grow the digital economy.

However, policymakers, educators and business executives face two key challenges: first, understanding their country’s relative engineering strength; and second, identifying and addressing engineering capability gaps.

This report begins by providing a broad assessment of countries’ engineering strength using the Engineering Index 2019. This framework measures the extent to which 99 countries are able to conduct engineering activities in a safe and innovative way. We highlight top performers for each category or indicator, helping to explain unexpected successes and transferable lessons.

Top performers per category or indicator:

Knowledge – Malaysia

Labour force – Iran

Engineering industry – Rwanda

Infrastructure – Panama

Digital infrastructure – Estonia

Safety standards – Singapore

Of course, each country will have to determine its own engineering priorities, based on its domestic circumstances. Engineering capability gaps will also differ depending on national goals, as well as a country’s education system, income level and economic structure. Addressing these gaps could require more engineering graduates, but it will more likely require interventions in education programmes, graduate training and professional development. To bring this diversity of challenges and solutions to life, we have examined specific engineering capability issues in six different countries: India, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Thailand and Jordan. In section 3, we discuss the context and drivers of engineering capability gaps in these countries, as well as potential thoughts on how to address them.

Findings from the country case studies

  • There is a lack of collaboration between industry and academia, resulting in coursework or research that fails to address relevant industry challenges and few opportunities for students to gain hands-on work experience.
  • Employers are concerned about the quality of engineering education, with recent graduates being seen as lacking the basic technical and soft skills needed to perform their jobs effectively.
  • There is a lack of both professional development opportunities and globally agreed upon standards for engineering qualifications, further contributing to concerns about engineers’ technical capabilities and long-term career prospects.

Recommendations

Strengthen the evidence base

Countries struggle to collect and report accurate data on a variety of indicators related to engineering. Strengthening the evidence base will help policymakers, international funders and the global engineering community to design more effective and targeted interventions that support safe and innovative engineering activities. They can do this by:

  • Enhancing data collection and reporting accuracy using labour force surveys;
  • Addressing alignment issues on the definition and categorisation of the term ‘engineer’.

Focus on quality not quantity

Many countries have a sufficient number of engineers; the challenge is producing high-quality engineers who are able to conduct the work required of them. Policymakers, international funders and the global engineering community should develop initiatives that enhance engineering capabilities to support safe and innovative engineering practices both at school and the workplace. These include:

  • Providing opportunities for collaboration between academia and the private sector;
  • Developing a more hands-on and interdisciplinary engineering curriculum;
  • Enhancing on-the-job training opportunities for engineering graduates and experienced professionals;
  • Developing professional certifications and standards.