Investments in Oklahoma’s Engineering Programs Build a Stronger Future
Everywhere you look, engineering touches your daily life. The technology that powers your smartphone, the car you drive, the roads you travel on, the water you drink, the plane you travel in, and the technology of modern medicine are possible thanks to advances in engineering. . Our national defense, our economic competitiveness, our energy network and our communications depend on our leadership in engineering.
Now consider what is beyond your daily reality. Targeted cancer therapies, abundant clean water, new hydrogen energy from natural gas, advanced radar to protect the homeland, and advanced on-demand manufacturing technologies are just a few examples. There is a future made possible by engineering that has the potential to improve our way of life and expand economic opportunity in our state.
Civil, computer, aerospace, architectural, electrical, industrial, mechanical, biomedical, chemical and petroleum engineering are all part of what makes the world go round. This year, Engineers Week (February 20-26) has an appropriate theme for Oklahoma State: “Reimagining the Possible.”
If we had had this conversation 20 or 30 years ago, the title might have been “Imagine the Impossible.” In Oklahoma, we know the value and promise of engineering. The booming aerospace industry and other industries in the Sooner State are generating demand for more than 3,000 new engineers per year in the coming years. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for engineers nationwide, with nearly 140,000 new jobs expected over the decade 2016-2026.
Do you seem a little separated from your immediate life? It’s not just aerospace and the high-tech industry that need more well-trained engineers. Oklahoma needs engineers to rebuild and repair more than 2,200 bridges. The state is set to receive $266.9 million to improve its bridges under a new funding program launched by the US Department of Transportation. Another $825 million will go to tribal transportation projects.
What about the water you drink, cook, bathe or give your pets to drink? Civil engineers today are looking for ways to give us all clean, better water.
The Sooner State is keen to strengthen both the technology and the economic landscapes of the state. As part of this investment, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education committed $12.6 million to improve engineering education at state universities in June 2021.
With focused support from state leaders, the University of Oklahoma’s Gallogly College of Engineering is making great strides in meeting the demand for engineers. In 2021, OU has hired 21 engineering faculty whose expertise ranges from aerospace engineering, data and energy science to medical devices and next-generation microelectronics technology. Our enrollment is up and our mentorship programs have seen immense growth – as of fall 2021, the OU Engineering Pathways program trained 1,000 students in grades 4-12 from 21 different schools.
We know this work is just the beginning to help Oklahoma transform its economic landscape. But thanks to the state, Oklahoma is poised to produce more engineers to take us into the next decade – and into the innovations and discoveries of the decades that follow. The state’s continued support will undoubtedly provide opportunities for our young people and long-term benefits for our state, its economy, and our residents.
John Klier is Dean of the Galloly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.
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