Ethics for Industrial Technology

By Rosentrater, Kurt A.; Balamuralikrishna, Radha | Journal of Technology Studies, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview
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Ethics for Industrial Technology


Rosentrater, Kurt A., Balamuralikrishna, Radha, Journal of Technology Studies


Abstract

This paper takes aim at one specific, as well as basic, need in teamwork and interdisciplinary projects - ethics and its implications for professional practice. A preliminary study suggests that students majoring in industrial technology degree programs may not have adequate opportunity to formally study and engage in ethical aspects of technology vis-à-vis the practices of the profession. It is reasonable to assume that the ethical dilemmas faced by an industrial technologist would parallel those of engineers and managers. To address this issue, this paper identifies a domain of knowledge that would constitute a necessary background in ethics for industrial technologists, examines various resources for teaching, and makes recommendations from a pedagogical point of view.

Keywords

Curriculum Development, Ethics, Industrial Technology, Professionalism, Societal Obligations

Introduction

The college education of engineers and technologists in the United States in key areas such as construction, manufacturing, communications, and transportation manifests itself in the form of three broad degree programs that can be identified as engineering, engineering technology, and industrial technology. Engineering degree programs have a long history in the U.S., and even though certain misconceptions regarding the profession of the engineer may still exist among the general public, it is fair to state that the profession is relatively well understood among high school students and the public at large.

All fifty states work with the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveying) in licensing and maintaining the professional competence of engineers (http://www.ncees.org). Engineering technology and industrial technology, however, belong to a newer class of degree programs that have generally eluded public knowledge (Minty, 2003). The four-year "technology" degree programs have been in popular existence for only the past 30 to 40 years, and currently the professions of "engineering technologist" and "industrial technologist" are not regulated by statutory agencies. Certain states do allow graduates holding engineering technology degrees to qualify for the title of "professional engineer" by examination. To date, however, a degree in industrial technology does not meet the educational requirements to seek licensure in engineering in any of the fifty states. It is also fair to state that the profession of "engineer" is universally understood; however, the terms "engineering technologist" and "industrial technologist" pose significant confusion for many, especially among educators based outside the United States. The fact remains that we have a large community of engineering and industrial technologists in American industry today, and that pool continues to expand on a yearly basis (www.nait.org).

Although much has been said regarding the distinctive competency of industrial technology (www.nait.org/jit/jit.html), there is overwhelming evidence that the industrial technology curriculum shares significant similarities with engineering and engineering technology programs (http://www.nait.org). Not withstanding the existing differences in status and mission of engineering, engineering technology, and industrial technology, students graduating from any of these three programs often serve at the forefront of present and future technical marvels and innovations. At the most fundamental levels, there should be a core body of knowledge that serves to unite the closely related professions of engineering, engineering technology, and industrial technology. From a societal viewpoint, the industrial technologist's responsibility towards safety and public health equals that of engineers. Due to this reason alone, a curriculum designed to prepare industrial technologists should include the teaching of ethics either as a separate course or blended into the curriculum. The rest of this paper is directed towards preparing a more substantial case for the formal inclusion of ethics in the industrial technology curriculum, and even more importantly, discusses implementation strategies for such an endeavor.

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