London – The Office of Naval Research (ONR), in conjunction with its international component ONR Global, sponsored a workshop May 17-19, 2004 at University College London (UCL), to discuss initiatives to address the serious worldwide shortage of well-trained naval engineers. The "Teaching Future Warship Designers" workshop brought together an international group of participants to discuss the future of naval engineering educational programs and opportunities for collaboration, with the goal of building a strong design community for future naval and maritime needs. The workshop’s final report will be released in September 2004.
U.S. participants included representatives from the government, the shipbuilding and design industrial communities, and twelve universities currently participating in the Office of Naval Research National Naval Responsibility for Naval Engineering (NNR-NE) Program. They were joined by representatives from European Defense Departments, the shipbuilding industry, and four European universities that are working with their respective Defense Departments to teach warship engineering within naval architecture and marine engineering curricula. Representatives from the academic institutions compared their programs and curricula to identify areas of best practice and commonality at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Some common threads were: the need for students to be exposed to the unique requirements of warships, compared with commercial vessels, from an early stage in their education; and at the graduate level an emphasis on the overall design of warships and not just the application of engineering principles.
Discussions focused on identifying the collaborative efforts necessary to ensure the continuation of a healthy design community for the future naval fleet, and opportunities for end-user support of the academic community. Participants noted that in Europe the ties between academia and end users (industry and military) were much closer than in the United States. Workshop attendees also considered the academic and educational needs of industry, in particular the problem of reconciling the traditional length of a university semester with the difficulty industry faces in releasing staff for more than a few weeks at a time.
A key concern for all participants was how to encourage more high school students to consider careers in marine engineering and naval architecture as well as continuing education for the current workforce. Workshop attendees agreed that addressing this issue, as well as the perception that these are ‘dull’ industries, will require a concerted and combined effort by all members of the community working in partnership.
A report of the workshop will be published in September and made available on the web sites of ONR (http://www.onr.navy.mil), ONR Global (http://www.onrglobal.navy.mil), and University College London (http://www.meng.ucl.ac.uk/). It will outline "best practices" for a possible roadmap for incorporating warship engineering into university naval architecture and marine engineering curricula, and the development of academic, Defense Department, and industry interfaces.