Engineering Technology builds support for updating government’s employment qualification standard

A proposed modification to a government employment qualification standard would benefit School of Engineering Technology students and alumni.

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has endorsed the modification of the federal government’s “All Professional Engineering Positions” standard, which governs qualifications for applicants to entry-level government engineering positions. Known as GS-0800, the standard is maintained by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

If modified, GS-0800 would “recognize successful completion of either an ABET-accredited Engineering or an ABET-accredited Engineering Technology Bachelor of Science degree as meeting ‘basic requirements’ for applicants to entry-level engineering positions,” according to ASEE. As currently written, the standard requires engineering technology graduates to provide proof of additional qualifications to be eligible for jobs governed by GS-0800.

The engineering technology (ET) community has been working for several years to get this standard changed. Getting ASEE to publicly endorse this modification is a big step forward,” said Kenneth Burbank, head of Purdue Polytechnic’s School of Engineering Technology.

The engineering technology (ET) community has been working for several years to get this standard changed. Getting ASEE to publicly endorse this modification is a big step forward.

Federal agencies adhere to the GS-0800 standard, but contractors which work for government agencies at both federal and state levels are also guided by federal rules, Burbank said. “It impacts all ET alumni out there, not just new graduates.”

Engineering technology graduates “comprise an important, if overlooked, segment of the nation’s STEM workforce,” according to a new report on engineering technology education by the National Academy of Engineering. “The field of ET has strong historical connections to traditional engineering and shares the same general sensibility toward technical problem solving. At the same time, its pedigree is rooted in application-focused and hands-on learning, perhaps to a greater extent than in engineering.”

Robert Herrick, the Robert A. Hoffer Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology, and Mark Pagano, former professor of mechanical engineering technology (now chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma) worked with the ASEE Engineering Technology Council to create the Engineering Technology National Forum in 2008 to help increase opportunities for ET graduates, among other goals.

“We met with the National Academy of Engineering,” Burbank said. “They noted that some employers fail to distinguish between the qualifications provided by two-year ET programs and four-year programs like Purdue Polytechnic’s. We also met several times with representatives from many government engineering branches, including NASA, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to discuss the standard and why we believe it needs to be changed. They were always supportive.”

ASEE notes that the proposed change to GS-0800 “would reflect current industry practice, increase the size of the engineering applicant pool, and thus increase the diversity of the nation’s engineering workforce.”

Burbank said that the ET community is working with IEEE, ASME, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), encouraging those organizations to add their endorsements to the proposed GS-0800 modification.

“Now that ASEE has made a public statement of support, we’ll start a fresh conversation with the Office of Personnel Management,” Burbank said. “We’re hoping to gain momentum for that conversation. It’s an issue of inclusivity in the engineering workforce.”

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