Engineering New Horizons

A Q&A on the importance of Engineers Week

Engineers Week is a year-round commitment to inspiring and supporting the next generation of American engineers. As Vice President of Engineering for Lockheed Martin Corp., a NEF founder and a father of three, Jeff Wilcox brings a unique and personal perspective to the theme of this year’s Engineers Week: Engineering New Horizons.

One goal for this week is to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world, how do you interpret that?

We face many challenges in the 21st century, including evolving energy needs, climate change, cybersecurity, the need for better medicine and tools for scientific discovery, access to clean water and urban infrastructure. Engineers will be the ones who create solutions to these pressing challenges. That’s very exciting. It’s a powerful moment when a young person realizes the potentially positive impact they could have on the world by choosing engineering as a career. I see it with my own children as they discover the wonders of making something new or making something better. It’s that joy and feeling of accomplishment that led many engineers to this field –and it’s what will inspire our next generation of engineering leaders as well.

Why do we need to increase public dialogue about the need for engineers?

I couldn’t agree more with the paramount importance of helping Americans understand why we need engineers. In my role as a founder of the National Engineering Forum, my mission is to shed light on what we call the 3Cs -three challenges facing the engineering enterprise: the capacity of our technical talent to fill future jobs, our engineering workforce’s capability to address 21st century challenges and our competitiveness in a global economy. Helping people understand the important role of engineers is key to solving the capacity and competitiveness challenges. In my role as vice president of engineering at Lockheed Martin, I am responsible for ensuring our almost 60,000 engineers, scientists and technologists have the right processes and tools available to them to do their very best work. This is key to solving the capability challenge.

What are your thoughts on bringing engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents?

Engineers solve problems, and today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators and inventors. Efforts such as Engineers Week help us inspire young people by championing the American engineer and showing students, educators, and parents that engineering really is a creative enterprise that allows our profession the privilege of creating new things and new ways of thinking that will make life better for people here at home and around the globe. It’s the real-world application that brings to life the feats of engineering. My sons are learning how to code and applying that skill to designing items that they produce on a 3-D printer. Robotics programs are another great example of activities that build science, engineering and technology skills while fostering life skills such as self-confidence, communications acumen and leadership.