How to Build the Next Generation of Electrical Engineers

Most people only think about the electricity that powers our homes and gadgets when it’s lacking. When the power is humming, we tend to take it for granted. The trouble is, the network that delivers the electricity to keep our lights on, known as the grid, is sometimes pushed to its limits. High demand can lead to blackouts and increased operational costs. As technology advances, the grid is being asked to do more and more… while the labor force to manage it dwindles by the year. 

To be very, very clear, the problem of electrical engineering shortages should not be underestimated. According to industry experts, about 25% of today’s electrical engineers are 55 years old or older. Once this mass exodus occurs, the industry will face a critical skills deficiency that could leave companies scrambling to fill many essential roles. 

Yet with every great industrial challenge comes an industrial sized opportunity. The electrical industry, along with EDU institutions have to leverage the current scholastic student base to prepare the electrical engineers of tomorrow by equipping them with the skills, tools, and experience they need to make the transition to the next generation as smooth as possible.   

This new generation of power engineers is needed to build and operate the world’s interconnected “smart grids” with advanced systems that incorporate renewable energy sources, advanced control systems, communications, signal processing, and security threat assessment and prevention. To fill the increasingly huge amount of workforce needed for global electrical engineers, students need to be inspired, empowered, and equipped.  

Engineering programs are struggling to mentor younger workers, who emerge from said programs overloaded with theory yet lacking the hands-on experience to hit the ground running.  When it comes to educating students about complex subjects like this, how you teach and bring the subject to life is critical for student’s long term successes in the field. 

Some K-12 STEM, Charter, Public, Private, and Home Schools are taking the leap and integrating this curriculum into their schools, with varying degrees of success.  Most attempting this offer very limited modernized techniques, while relying on books, videos and online resources to provide the materials.   

It’s up to educational leaders to empower this learning leap and build the next generation of electrical workers in a way that can successfully bring in a new era of engineering expertise.  

There are 4 steps to establishing a successful engineering program in your district: 

1) Show the dream.

Let the kids see all the cool gadgets and devices they could (and should) be working with.  Light it up.  Shoot lasers.  Flip the switch.  Show the end result.  Let their little eyes go wide. The creation of a new pipeline of talent begins with interest. The industry should partner with educational institutions down to the elementary and middle school levels to build excitement about the robust opportunities available in the field. 

2) Emphasize the future job potential.

Electrical engineering as a field has incredibly strong potential for job growth. Educational leaders should harness this to make the career path attractive to students at all levels. Students want to know they have a future, along with a steady (fat) paycheck, and this is a way to give it to them.  

3) Plan hands-on lessons.

This means you need to shift from books, videos, and online resources (basically, theory) to physical labs and exercises.  This means giving future engineers access to tools and products similar to what they would be creating or using in the real world.  

By integrating the concepts learned in the classroom with hands-on experiments, students gain a deeper and longer-lasting understanding of the topic. Introducing real-world application of engineering concepts at the K-12 level and providing them access to intelligent lab and building supplies will help accomplish this as well. 

4) Embed the desire for lifelong learning.

Students must understand that everything they see today will be improved upon or replaced in the future. They will want that future knowledge to launch their careers in today’s world and continue to grow as professionals down the road.  

While the industry outlook is troubling, K-12 has the opportunity to prepare the next generation of skilled engineers for success. Soon students will be building open-source robots, wiring advanced electronic schemas, building and coding solutions and products, and more – all in a fun and engaging format for both kids, parents, and community. This will open an entire world of interactive projects for your children to become industry leaders of the future.  

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