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Workforce Blog: Engineering and the American Spirit

Workforce Blog: Engineering and the American Spirit

We don't see problems, we see opportunities. And working together, we can create a larger technical workforce.
I have been thinking a lot about our country lately—about the best of the American spirit: unbridled optimism, faith in ingenuity, the certainty that we can make the future better. And the generosity that it can be better—for everyone. I have also been thinking about all the problems and the relentless pessimism all around us.

The thing about engineers is that we don’t just see problems. We see puzzles waiting to be solved. Opportunities, really. Engineers believe pessimism is just a distraction from the work that must get done. I like that. Engineers and the best of the American spirit have a lot in common.

So, what is the “work” ahead for all of us? How can we contribute to a better future—for everyone?

Engineering has a profound and positive impact on almost every part of human life: medicine, communications, energy, transportation, water, food, and on and on. The critical issue at the top of that list is climate change, but there are many others.

Get Involved: Optimism Engineered Gala 2024

We are all counting on the technical workforce of the 21st century to be the great problem solvers we need. ASME is deeply engaged in workforce development, so we know how hard it is to find and hire qualified technical talent. And yet, there are over 3 million technical jobs open right now in just the U.S.

At this critical moment when we can’t afford to leave any talent behind, today only 9 percent of U.S. mechanical engineers are women, only 11 percent are BIPOC, and only 4 percent are African American. This is not only wrong, it is robbing the future of the technical talent we so critically need.

What I know is that we cannot count on government and academia to solve this problem. To right this wrong, and to create the workforce we need, corporate America—industry—has to do more to help build its own future workforce.

More on Expanding the Workforce: Introduce STEM to the Next Generation of Diverse Talent

So how do you build an engineer? How do we build the best trained, most capable workforce for the 21st century? How do we create the new pathways to finally include the vitally needed talent from underserved and underrepresented communities?

The ASME Foundation knows how: by empowering diverse next generation engineers with breakthrough programs in engineering education, career resources, and support for launching early innovation. Our established and proven programs in each of these areas have been carefully curated and refined to meet aspiring engineers and technical professionals at all the critical junctures along the journey to a productive career.

Changing trajectory

Already, these ASME Foundation initiatives are changing the lives and trajectory of so many underserved and underrepresented kids. We are supporting a diverse and equitable engineering profession. And in harnessing the full spectrum of technical brilliance—a sustainable world is possible—for everyone.

What can individuals and corporations do to help? Three things spring to mind.

First, the ASME Foundation needs individual and corporate financial support to scale these proven and powerful programs. Second, the ASME Foundation needs access to internships and entry-level technical jobs for its pipeline of amazing young people on an engineering and technical path—from HBCUs, Community Colleges, and universities across the country. And third, the ASME Foundation welcomes leaders in the corporate community to share their knowledge and contacts to make the work of the Foundation as relevant and effective as possible.

Selected for You: Leapfrog to the New Generation of Engineers

There are plenty of things in the world we cannot change right now. But here’s what we can change: together we can create a larger technical workforce.

Engineers are the ultimate optimists; a spirit that continuously leads to breakthroughs. Where others see problems, we see challenges. To us, every obstacle is an opportunity.

A diverse, just, and equitable engineering workforce is possible. So is a productive and sustainable world. All we need to get from here to there is faith in a better future—a willingness to invest in it—and our collective can-do optimism that is the very heart of our American spirit.

K. Keith Roe chairs the ASME Philanthropy Committee and the ASME Foundation’s Campaign for Next Generation Engineers and is a past president of ASME. For more information about the Foundation’s workforce development programs, visit

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