One of the most important issues facing engineering schools
is the increasing expectation that universities deliver "workforce
ready" students. Engineering is the only discipline where the
demands for excellence are increasing while the number of graduates
While progress has been made in securing partnerships
between corporations and universities, what's really made a difference
in addressing this challenge is the cooperation among technology providers,
manufacturers, universities, K-12 school systems, and government. Even
more integrative than partnerships, this ecosystem must be nurtured
and maintained through communication, content, curriculum, and training.
Engineering schools and corporations must work to help
students become successful practicing engineers by giving them real-world
experiences. Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, and Brigham
Young University are among the universities embracing "PLM Engineer
of the Future" programs by actively working with leading corporations
to develop real-world curricula. PLM, which stands for Product Lifecycle
Management, is an emerging business strategy that enables companies
to achieve strong and sustainable revenue growth by managing products
throughout their entire life cycle.
Industry is hungry for engineering graduates with product
development skills they can immediately deploy when they reach the workplace.
A professor at one of the few programs that emphasizes real-world experiences
reports that his graduate students constantly receive job offers when
they go into the field to develop product modules as part of their master's
Another example of symbiosis within the ecosystem came
earlier this year when PTC teamed with Motorola to challenge students
to provide new design ideas for Motorola's successful MicroTAC
flip phone. The success of this competition resulted from its real-world
In today's world, the concept of a single team
at a single location working on a single product doesn't reflect
reality. At PLM, most efforts take place within a multi-vendor environment
where the process is information-driven, globally distributed, and concurrent.
We must continue implementing programs that require collaboration among
universities, students, and educators.
To date, discontinuity in curriculum has existed between
the university and the K-12. As a result, few school systems are producing
truly university-ready engineering students. As corporations place greater
emphasis on hiring "workforce-ready"graduates, a trickle-back
effect requires secondary schools to better prepare students for college
engineering courses. This means educators must inspire an interest in
engineering and technology in middle school, so that by the time students
reach the 10th grade they are enrolled in the appropriate math and science
preparatory courses that are the foundation of college engineering programs.
Within the last few years, we've also seen greater
effort by government to increase technological literacy of K-12 students.
Through the "Leave No Child Behind Act" the federal government
has increased its support for classroom technology and professional
development for teachers.
Never before has the opportunity—and need—for
businesses, universities, and schools to partner been so great. So far,
expectations have been placed mostly on the shoulders of educators.
The ecosystem has always existed to some extent, but the introduction
of new technologies, such as those associated with PLM, has raised the
bar in ways that require new resources. Corporations have a vested interest
in providing the access, expertise, and tools that will allow educators
to produce the engineers of the future. For companies that provide engineering
design technologies, it means that they must move beyond providing educators
with their latest offerings at affordable levels to allowing access
to their customers. They also need to embrace their aspirations, provide
forums to share ideas, and tailor training for those in academia. With
greater corporate involvement, we can groom the engineers of the future
to fill the critical demand.