The skills expected from an engineer have changed. The engineer is now working with flexible companies that differentiate themselves in a globalized competition with their capacity to produce or having something produced, to master and promote strategic innovation. One should not forget that the engineer is also working with territorial communities, technical services of central administrations (national, european or international) which are also confronted to the questions of "global performance", "excellence" or "competitiveness clusters".
- Developing a halo of global skills for the contemporary engineer
- An increasing incorporation of services in a system offer
- The decisive role of intangible assets
- An upstream and downstream move from what the engineer used to focus on
- Financialization of industrial processes and the demand for a modeling of the complex
Aside from the technical core of his education, which is summoned on direct production, maintenance, R&D departments, products lines, processes or on the skills of expertise or technical monitoring, a halo of global skills is being developped. Those skills are far more blurry, either because they require a real interdisciplinarity or distant specializations, either because they require the engineer to have a general culture which is both human and technical. It has been obvious for a long time that the engineer cannot fully play his part as an organizer of the industrial society (Saint Simon). But what Deniellou, founder of UTC, understood is that the emergence of a real technical culture implies an essential role of human and social sciences, and not only about old humanities. But the globalization of performance that is now required from an engineer has reached a higher degree, which means new expectations from employers, both in recruitments and career trajectories. New jobs are emerging, besides production engineers, commercial engineers, or even R&D engineers. They mobilize the mastery of interaction in complex systems, the production of new knowledge, the creation or economical promotion of processes and solutions, and more simply the production of complex systems by products and processes.
This mutation reflects an increasing incorporation of services in the direct industrial activity, and the mobilization of an understanding of legal, institutional, ecological and bioethical environments in which companies are evolving. Big firms are profoundly reorganizing according to their networks of suppliers, subcontractors, consultants and clients, who are all at once their raw material, their resources, and their intangible capital. This transformation requires engineers to project themselves out of the classical hierarchical organization (vertical or matrix according to the firm described by Chandler): versatility, project management, user-oriented products and services design, mastery of the interface between cultures. This injunction is even more powerful since share holders' financial expectations intend to have benchmarking done by consulting agencies at both macro-economic and global levels (corresponding to corporate governance, territories and countries new governance levels). This demand - comparing thin production segments - requires the production to become modular, divisible and assignable, so that it might be evaluated at any time according to the fair value (the actuarial value and no longer the traditional accounting value). This is what we call the financialization of the production; no matter the nature of the activity, industrial or service, it has to express a results value (outcome), and no longer a products value (output)1. This "outcome" is even more economically valuable since it is able to integrate elements which are produced outside the company (positive externalities), and whose value is higher than their "output" price or even their market price.
Even though the material production inputs market price system is well-oiled and well known, the situation is quite different for immaterials or intangibles (immaterial assets such as organization, codified or valued knowledge - softwares, databases, patents, brands, copyrights - but also living knowledge - networks, organization, intellectual capital, human resources, trust). Finance is getting a hold on those blurry spaces, in an attempt to solve their uncertainty problem and the toughness of a stable evaluation (the Goodwill problem, which states that the value of a company might double or even treble at the time of its acquisition or fusion).
From the design and implementation of processes and solutions, to the corporates' stock exchange evaluation or the "Certificate for Good Governance" delivered to countries by the international organisms of globalization (IMF, World Bank, WHO, WIPO, WTO), there is a common thread which constitutes the new productive culture. The whole value chain is not only moved upstream and downstream from what the engineer used to focus on, it is now completely fragmented.
The innovation possibilities (quality, products, procedures, processes, living environment) are in line with this. Engineers from northern countries have been protected from competition for a while by the quality of their technical core. Today, location of companies and jobs might be more related to the quality and innovation level incorporated into the global skill than it used to (even though it has always been so).
Understanding this global context of transformations - which are happening at different levels: companies, networks, copyrights, countries, knowledge management or human resources, financial and accounting tools - is essential for engineers, as they represent their new environnment. Those elements are widely influenced by economics and management. Sociological questions that deal with organization are doomed to remain just words as long as they aim to cooperate for innovation or risk minimising, such as philosophical questions about ethics, products eco design, processes and information or deliberation systems. They are not significant in the financial, legal and communicational languages of firms or public and territorial communities.
The following diagram represents the transformation of the modern engineer's skills.
This diagram illustrates the synergy of those two global skills and the way they are gravitating around the engineer's technical core.
The 2007-2009 crisis crudely highlighted the importance for engineers' education to take into account the true nature of the complex. The financial crisis has lead us to question the kind of mathematics used in banking models to arbitrate the derivatives market. Benoît Mandelbrot, father of the fractal theory, used what he already said in 1964 in order to severely criticize them. According to him, very bad events were really likely to happen2. The urgency for industrial solutions to ecological challenges requires taking into account the nature of the complex ecosystems, in order to rebuild a green industry.
Facing the complex with relevant modeling tools and working in ecosystems will now be the foundations of the engineer's culture. The creation of this course inside a specialty of a UTC Master responds to this demand.