As the executive director of the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS), I was surprised to read of the demise of JETS in the e-mail “Stagnant Enrollments” from Murray Mantell in the January 2007 issue of Prism, when, in fact, the ink hadn’t even dried on JETS’ 2006 annual report, highlighting one of the organization’s most successful years in recent history. In 2006, JETS opened the world of engineering and technology to more than 40,000 students and 10,000 educators through its academic competitions, career resources and educational activities. In addition, more than 40 organizations have joined in supporting JETS’ efforts to promote the engineering profession—including ASEE, ASCE, NSPE and the University of Miami. Not to mention the nearly 100 universities and professional organizations who invest their time and resources to host JETS’ largest program, TEAMS, on their campuses and in their communities. As one of the oldest pre-college national engineering education outreach programs, JETS is thriving, and the pursuit of achieving our mission has never been more relevant than it is today.
Increasing the understanding of engineering among teachers, students and parents remains JETS’ primary focus. How do we do it? Two academic competitions, TEAMS and NEDC, lead the way in JETS’ efforts to expose students to the real-world side of engineering while highlighting the societal contributions an engineering career holds. The all-inclusive Pre-Engineering Times e-newsletter connects with an additional 20,000 students, parents and educators every month by spotlighting the inside story of engineers and their careers on the progressive side of the industry. JETS furthers career insights by developing and distributing resources that include Web-based materials, discipline specific brochures, booklets and various multimedia. Most recently, JETS launched the updated and redesigned 5th edition of its student assessment tool, aptly named ASSESS (formerly known as NEAS+).
JETS is not finished. We have a lot of work to do, but we need the collaboration of the entire engineering community, working together, communicating a common message and generating awareness and enthusiasm about all areas of engineering. Then… we will begin to see enrollments increase.
Executive Director, JETS
Lawrence Jaworski, P.E.
Vice President, Black & Veatch
President and Alumnus, JETS
My previous e-mail in the January issue of Prism came about due to extreme frustration while trying to help with recruiting. I have been retired over 20 years, and in the summer of 2006, I was asked, and I offered as a volunteer, to assist the new department chairman at the University of Miami to recruit engineering students to halt a serious decline in enrollment. The University of Miami has recently made available a large number of merit scholarships to be awarded to the best qualified freshman applicants, regardless of discipline. We hoped we could get applications for these merit scholarships into the hands of well-qualified students who were interested in engineering and thus increase the ratio of engineering students obtaining these scholarships. We did not find any effective methods of reaching prospective engineering students before the November 1 deadline, and not even a single application was given out. Also, we developed some new and shorter paths to careers in medicine, law and teaching by including in the B.S. degree in engineering curriculum the prerequisites for admission to advanced study in these other careers and by facilitating and encouraging year-round education so that all B.S. degrees in engineering could be completed in three calendar years. We believe that these new programs could induce many students to change their undergraduate majors to engineering, but here again, we have no effective way of reaching prospective students.
When the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) high school clubs existed, they were a most-effective means of making known the availability of scholarships and new, attractive academic programs as well as the advantages of a career in engineering. The JETS organization some years ago had financial difficulties and was forced to abandon its high school program. Unfortunately, the engineering profession did not assist JETS, and the profession’s major national means of recruitment was lost; this loss undoubtedly is a major cause of the current stagnant enrollments. Currently, there is no major effective program that can help the stagnant enrollment problem.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. I was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to hear from Leann Yoder, executive director of JETS, that although the high school club program no longer exists, JETS is still alive and recently took steps to reactivate the high school club program. The availability of the Internet will help reduce operating costs, but JETS desperately needs help before it can build the program back to anywhere near its former level. The JETS clubs can reach many thousands of students to provide continuous activities throughout the school year to promote the profession and to provide a ready means of communicating the availability of scholarships and other opportunities for the students. Every professional engineering society and every employer of engineers should make maximum efforts to help JETS. The efforts will be the best possible means of promoting the profession and building the future for the societies and employers themselves.
Murray Mantell, Ph.D.
University of Miami