ASME president emphasizes continuing education

Feb. 17, 2009
Mechanical engineers take note: To future-proof your career, lifelong learning will be of the utmost importance.

Mechanical engineers take note: To future-proof your career, lifelong learning will be of the utmost importance. This was the gist of a speech given recently by ASME’s current president. During proceedings of the 3rd World Engineers’ Convention held Dec. 2 to 6, in Brasilia, ASME President Thomas M. Barlow said that training and human development are changing engineering education and are critical to expanding the engineering profession’s opportunities to collaborate globally.

“Distance learning – online courses, webinars, and similar opportunities – is not new in itself, but it can provide a significant new capacity in workforce development, one that opens the door to individual endeavor and accomplishment,” noted Barlow in his presentation titled “Global Imperatives for Local Solutions – Access through Distance Learning.”
Before an international gathering of engineers, professional associations, and members of academia, Barlow stated that engineering companies and research institutes build their reputations on “specialized knowledge that must be continually updated and shared across teams and generations.”

The impact is great when learning is related to sustainable development. “Engineers must adjust to an ever-increasing learning curve to stay relevant. Thus, the learning curve for the engineer is sharp and follows rapidly changing models for both technology and business.”

Barlow emphasized that a strong technical knowledge base must have a greater outreach in areas of creativity, problem solving, and a multidisciplinary, systems-level understanding of problems. “Engineers must have a more in-depth knowledge of management, and they must also understand the so-called softer skills, such as communications.”

ASME’s mission is to promote and enhance the technical competency and professional well being of its members and to better enable its practitioners to contribute to the well being of humankind. To do this, Barlow said ASME recognizes that the work of today’s engineer is broader than it used to be. “It includes the traditional fields of power, pressure vessels, energy and fuel, and many others, but it also has reached into the allied fields, such as agriculture, biology, and the sciences, creating many exciting opportunities,” he said.

Barlow pointed out that ASME’s mission statement speaks of the Society’s commitment to the well being of humankind, not just the prosperous and highly gifted, but also the underserved. “These include the poorest people of our Earth, even though many of them live in industrialized countries.” He added that to address both greater sustainability and dignity to the development of emerging regions broadens the worldview that ASME embraces.

ASME believes that it is the untapped, underserved markets of the world that will be the true test of 21st century innovation. These innovations will have enormous impacts on the industrialized world, added Barlow.

During his discussion, Barlow cited ASME’s global imperative for continuing education for every engineer; a need to recognize the complexity of coordinating projects across disciplines, cultures and timeframes; and that engineers must look to new technologies, new methods of learning, new business models, and a more expanded understanding of engineering education.

Barlow said that ASME is gearing its resources to be a source for the global engineering community. “During this process, we have learned to participate globally, interact locally and to learn from peer societies on how to improve the world for humanity.”

Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization promoting the art, science and practice of mechanical and multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences. ASME develops codes and standards that enhance public safety, and provides lifelong learning and technical exchange opportunities benefiting the global engineering and technology community. For more information, visit

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