Washington, D.C., March 3, 2011: In just a few months, millions of young adults will graduate from college and step into productive careers in the global economy. Meanwhile, those already involved in standardization, particularly in the engineering and technology sectors, and increasingly those with policy, legal, and business backgrounds, are working in a new environment where standards play a crucial role in international trade and competitiveness. But according to the attendees of a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Subcommittee on Standards and Conformance, comparatively few new graduates will begin their careers with a working knowledge of the standardization infrastructure that underpins and impacts more than 80 percent of worldwide-commodity trade. At the same time, a large fraction of new participants in standards relies heavily on on-the-job training to engage in the process.
"Standards education at the university level and in the professional environment is vital because standards and conformance play a critical role in the economy, impacting over 13 trillion dollars in commodity trade on an annual basis," said S. Joe Bhatia, president and CEO of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in his keynote address to the APEC audience.
"Put simply, effective utilization of standards and conformance promotes technological interoperability and drives the global competitiveness of businesses. A new graduate or professional who is familiar with the standards relevant to their industry and how the standards system works is a strategic asset to their employer."
Held in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, "Opportunities and Challenges for Education on Standardization in Universities" was a joint meeting of the APEC Subcommittee's Project Advisory Group on Education and ANSI's Committee on Education. In total, more than 100 leaders from government agencies, industry, and prominent universities from APEC economies were in attendance to discuss strategies for more effective standards education in the Asia-Pacific region.
In a series of panel discussions, representatives from the APEC economies discussed various aspects of standards-related education, including:
- Specific mechanics of developing a university-level standards education program
- Integrating standards-related education into business, legal, and public policy curricula in addition to engineering programs
- The importance of standards education to industry, government, and academia
- Opportunities and challenges in standards education including topical issues such as standards and intellectual property
Speakers from academia noted that peer review, curriculum delivery, textbook selection, and synergies between standardization topics and research activities have proven to be critical components of a successful academic program.
"To advance our objectives in standards education, we need to share best practices on our wide range of approaches, both at the university and the workplace levels, and exchange information so that the teaching of standards incorporates the wide variety of policy, legal, and business environments in our region," said Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), who addressed the meeting participants during a luncheon keynote address. "Achieving some convergence on how we approach standards education will be beneficial in our close work together in the future as our economies become more interdependent."
Representatives from all APEC economies in attendance agreed that education on standardization principles has broad importance – young engineers and scientists have historically been targeted for standards education programs, but an understanding of standards is just as vital for business, legal, and public policy students. This reiterates the emphasis on education in standardization first noted at a high level in the 2006 APEC Ministerial Meeting Joint Statement, which says that, "Ministers recognized the importance of standards education and encouraged members to develop reference curricula and materials to address the significance of standards and conformance to trade facilitation in the region."
"Standards are a significant factor in who wins and who loses in the global marketplace," concluded Bhatia. "It's hard to win if you don't know the game."
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. Its membership is comprised of businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, and consumer and labor organizations. The Institute represents the diverse interests of more than 125,000 companies and organizations and 3.5 million professionals worldwide. The Institute is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and is a U.S. representative to the International Accreditation Forum (IAF). ANSI's initiatives and offerings relative to standards education can be found at www.standardslearn.org.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. NIST plays an important role in coordinating standards and conformity assessment interests of U.S. federal government agencies.
Established in 1989, the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an inter-government forum that includes most Pacific Rim countries. With significant input from the private sector, APEC works to promote free trade and economic cooperation among its member economies and has worked to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, creating more efficient domestic economies and dramatically increased exports. The APEC Subcommittee on Standards and Conformance has had an Initiative on Standards Education since 2007, and information on this activity can be found at www.wisestandard.org.