The American Society of Civil Engineers has been and remains a living, dynamic organization. A half century ago, ASCE was focused primarily on the dissemination of the advances in engineering science, design, and construction. Three decades ago our organization morphed to embrace a broader role in the lives of its members and our field by advancing issues related to professionalism, undergraduate and continuing education, attracting the next generation of engineers, and promoting a focus on the civil infrastructure needs of our nation. This was not done at the expense of our technical focus, but rather provided the impetus for the development of the Institutes which serve to further our technology transfer role and provide the foundation for ASCE becoming the preeminent source of information on technical advances in civil engineering.
During the following decade, our Society continued on a mission to support the profession by attracting the best and brightest, redefining the body of knowledge required to practice in this profession, and communicating the role civil infrastructure plays in our national economy. Later, ASCE redefined itself to become a global organization, working to meet the technical and professional needs of civil engineering around the world. Most recently, ASCE accepted the grand challenge facilitating those in our profession to become leaders in developing 21st Century solutions to complex problems while recognizing the triple bottom line.
To provide a framework for ASCE's current roles, the Society leadership recently developed strategic goals to facilitate our profession's success. Advancing the profession, facilitating the dissemination of technical advances, and promoting sustainability in the planning, design and construction of the next generation of infrastructure systems are tasks for which ASCE is well suited. Promoting technical competency, professionalism, and leadership by our members are the foundation for increasing our value proposition to our constituents. Maintaining organizational excellence and providing member value have become part of a mantra embraced by ASCE's leadership, volunteers and staff.
However, membership growth has been an elusive goal for our Society. Historically, efforts to increase the pipeline of individuals entering the profession has been our focus, though met with mixed success. Many of our institutions have seen enrollments in civil engineering undergraduate programs recently lag behind the growth in other engineering areas. We continue to struggle to attract a representative level of diversity in the student population. Though projections suggest major increases in employment opportunities for civil engineers, our profession's role in advancing society appears to be lost on many prospective students.
This next generation of engineers are now part of the workforce and outnumber all previous generations, including the "Boomers". This group of pre-professionals and young professionals are more diverse and more giving. When asked about their career aspirations, they want to make an impact and they expect to succeed. These motivated, highly competent engineers want to lead, make a difference.
However, how is this energy and creativity often met by the engineering profession? Managers see these attitudes as reflective of being "entitled." They find this next generation of engineers difficult to manage, hard to satisfy, because they don't aspire to the same trappings of success that previous generations sought. They see them as wanting to be the organization's leader, when in fact they aspire only to be part of a dynamic leadership team. As a result, recent graduates leave their positions after a few years, relocating in hopes of finding a fulfilling career opportunity, or they leave the profession for alternatives which accommodate their need to effect change.
The environment in which they are most creative is different from what is traditional for the engineering profession. This difference is not inherently bad, and the next generation expects some level of accommodation. They want a work environment that recognizes the balance between work and life, utilizes the opportunities technology provides to change the way work gets done, and deemphasizes norms regarding personal appearance. They desire routine acknowledgement of the contribution they provide.
I feel it is time for our Society to focus on this workforce and facilitate workplace change. We need to re-evaluate what the new generation of engineers needs from our organization, and renovate to provide it. I envision ASCE having a role in facilitating a productive working environment and personal accomplishment which will lead to increased membership in, and employer support of, this organization. I see my role as part of the ASCE leadership team as one of advocacy for the next generation of engineers.
It should come as no surprise given four decades of academic service to preparing young engineers, and decades of involvement with the student-focused programs of our Society, I want to see our organization accept its responsibility to facilitate change in the workplace, to make it more inclusive of diverse groups and rewarding for the next generations of engineers. These engineers are going to change the engineering profession in many positive ways. We need to be part of this change.
This means that the professional and technical support provided by ASCE needs to be renovated to meet new needs while maintaining the integrity of our profession. ASCE needs to facilitate workplace transparency, equality, diversity, and inclusiveness as defined by Canon 8. The Society needs to promote mentorship of young engineers by those who understand and embrace a new workplace model. We need to support continued professional and technical development of young engineers in ways that meet their needs.
In short, we need to define a value proposition suited for young engineers. We have a responsibility to help employers understand the needs of this new generation of engineers. We have a duty to mentor these young engineers so they find patience, gratification in the work they do, and develop meaningful relationships in the profession. Only when we are successful at helping transform the workplace to increase the productivity of these new engineers and guided our engineering program graduates into professional careers which reward them in ways they value, our profession will have achieved workforce sustainability and ASCE membership will not be an issue.