In a broad view, the project expects to alert students to issues related to sustainability, recycling, production process, energy performance, etc. The issues of the future of Civil Engineering must obviously be addressed and must be integrated in the partnership as a major, ongoing discussion. This discussion and the expected conclusions shall also be part of the project results. The project will contribute to join other important institutions, including governmental agencies, civil engineering institutions and organizations and to foster awareness of the importance of this issue for the future of our society.
The project aims to provide answers to four important questions and to guarantee that secondary students who are interested in pursuing a degree in the field of Civil Engineering are aware of these answers when assessing higher education options:
What is Civil Engineering?
What is the role of civil engineering in society?
How do Civil Engineers transform the world?
Where is Civil Engineering present?
The most important aim and result should be the motivation and influence that the project should assert among secondary school students to avoid Early School Leaving and to combat failure in education.
The university can play an important, active role to develop strategies to invite the community to learn about its activities and goals and opening campus facilities to interested visitors. To make these facilities more attractive it is important to reflect on the most appropriate communication strategies and prepare the necessary materials – experiences with the participation of visitors, videos, interactive constructions, written materials, virtual reality models, etc. ... This project aims to develop an “educational laboratory” that can be deployed in different countries and in different environments, both inside and outside the participant universities' facilities.
Although engineering and science are currently popular fields of study in advanced tertiary degrees, they are currently lagging behind other fields in the overall yearly volume of higher education degrees (OECD, Education at a Glance, 2015). This is particularly true when considering women, who are vastly underrepresented in this field. Civil Engineering is a field that is proving to be particularly sensitive to the dynamics of the labour market. It has become noticeably less popular in countries such as Portugal, Greece, Croatia (and other European Countries) where employment levels for Civil Engineers have dropped significantly.
This is a very problematic context as Civil Engineering is present in everyday life and is indeed a requisite for sustaining life as we have become used to understand it: buildings, roads, traffic, city planning, construction materials, hydraulics, etc.
The lack of interest in scientific fields related to construction began earlier in the Civil Engineering courses. These courses traditionally chosen by most students with a vocation for engineering in general, began to have an abrupt drop of candidates. For example, in 2004, the number of applications for university courses in Civil Engineering in Portugal was 3744 and in 2014 it was reduced to 571.
It is believed that in this context, universities and professional associations alike have an important role to play, reaching out to the community. It is very important to encourage secondary school students (the main target in this proposal), their parents and teachers to visit higher education institutions and their laboratories, supporting schools’ efforts to tackle early school leaving (ESL) and disadvantage as well as to address all students from the lowest to the highest end of the academic spectrum. The university can play an important, active role in these efforts, promoting the field of engineering to prospective students.