ET Conversations at ETLI: What’s in a name: Engineer, Engineering Technologist, Technician

The Engineering Technology Leadership Institute (ETLI) is a council under the Division of Engineering Technology (ETD) in the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). This group meets annually to focus on national policy issues around engineering technology education including engineering technology professionals, issues surrounding accreditation, licensure, occupational codes (and definitions of those occupations), and other timely topics. Recently, research and conversation on these topics has become overlayed and somewhat complicated with the impact of smart factories, automated and connected “systems”, and Industry 4.0 technologies.

With the emergence of manufacturing integrated systems, many new industrial positions and job titles have been created in attempts to better define various collections of skills needed to perform current industry tasks. It takes time to get these technical personnel re-aligned to effectively and efficiently with the new technologies simplifying or eliminating some tasks while making others more complex. It generates challenges as the new positions merge some skills that belonged to different jobs. This juggling, jumbling, and perhaps jousting of tasks and skills needed for various “jobs” raises questions about the strict traditional definitions of “engineer” and the working definitions of engineers, engineering technologists, and engineering technicians as well as their roles in the emerging skilled technical workforce now needed to support full implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies.

As Industry 4.0 technologies roar into all industries, there continues to be dizzying conversations about who can be licensed, and when, and with what education. In recent years, academic training for B.S. degrees in Engineering and Engineering Technology very much supported the notion that engineers “designed” things or systems, and therefore should be “licensed”. Engineering technologists, on the other hand, do more of the hands-on application and implementation of “designed” technologies and processes. Engineering technicians, the occupation assigned to graduates of 2-year associate technical degrees in engineering technology, typically support engineers and technologists. This hierarchy is defined in the Standard Occupation Codes (SOC) established by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and is recognized by the US government hiring guidelines. It is also used by ABET. However, there are two immediate reality checks in play. First, many industries have hired and continue to hire, graduates from B.S. engineering and engineering technology programs into the same position. More and more companies are adopting the same guidelines in the very competitive employee market and the need for a more multi-skilled and interdisciplinary technical workforce. Second, the actual title, engineering technologist, is not used in many industry situations or academic programs. To further complicate the issue, some 2-year engineering technology graduates are being hired into “engineer” positions.

ETLI is one organization within the American Society of Engineering Education that is working to make sure that B.S. Engineering Technology graduates are welcome into all engineering careers. This group represents over 200 ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) 2-year Engineering Technology degree and over 400 B.S Engineering Technology degree programs in the US. The ETLI is specifically focused on bringing the B.S. Engineering Technology degree holder to the same recognition level as the B.S. Engineering degree holder relative to engineering career and licensing opportunities.

There are many organizations working to keep up with the need for engineering and technology in the world. The recent changes in over 30 states’ licensure rules, providing access to professional engineer licensure for B.S. ET graduates, is an endorsement of support from the current U.S. engineering workforce for these graduates to be able to work as engineers. The recent completion of a career path for A.S. ET degree, through the B.S. ET degree and a straightforward route to an Engineering Professional License for B.S. ET degree holders in Florida indicates that Florida is very serious about creating a world class technical workforce to support manufacturing in Florida. FLATE is extremely proud of the role it played in making this happen. You can learn more about Florida Engineering Licensure from the Florida Board of Professional Engineers. link: