The degree programmes examined were deliberately chosen to cover "generic" STEM degree programmes. Nowadays, many higher education institutions have degree programmes specifically related to circular economy where we expect the CEC framework's competence requirements to be met, but since we are calling for circular economy training for all engineers, the most generic degrees should also include the basic circular economy competences.
What measures are needed to remedy the situation?
The report specifies several recommended measures, which are targeted at policy makers, higher education institutions and employers. Out of the numerous recommended measures, I will address here the ones I consider most important. The measures with the greatest impact concern the development of educational content in the field of technology and the continuing education and training of engineering teachers on circular economy topics.
In the report, we suggest that engineering disciplines should assess how current competencies among the graduates meet the needs outlined in the CEC framework and modify teaching content and practices as necessary to meet the requirements of the framework. In many cases, this does not require changes to the teaching content, but can be implemented by modifications in teaching practices by adding, for example, interdisciplinary cooperation to the courses or by adding elements of product design in accordance with the principles of circular economy to the boundary conditions of assignments.
However, it is clear that without a skilled teaching staff, the deep integration of circular economy topics into all engineering studies cannot be expected. That is why it is extremely important to invest in the continuous education and training of teachers in the field. In addition to higher education institutions, policy makers have a key role to play in this, and earmarked financial support should be provided for this purpose.
Technology studies have a long history of emphasizing calculation exercises and other assignments. They have a clear purpose of directing the student to apply a certain problem-solving mindset to a certain kind of problem. However, these problem-solving models do not meet the needs of today’s circular society, as they do not simultaneously take into account, for example, the longest possible service life of the device, repairability, upgradeability, non-toxicity, recyclability, resource efficiency and so on. On the other hand, the silver lining is that the current study modules and courses can provide significant leverage for the development of circular economy skills with just a little fine-tuning – as long as we have teachers with sufficient knowledge of the topic to integrate it into the study content.