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Corporate Connection

What Industry Wants

- By Isadore Davis

At the annual conference this year, ASEE's Corporate Member Council (CMC) met to discuss the skills that engineering graduates will need for tomorrow's workplace. CMC came up with seven areas they believe are important and where they can play a crucial role.

Academic and ABET support. Today's engineering graduates must be able to demonstrate skills in teamwork, communication, systems engineering thinking, design, manufacturing, and continuous improvement while maintaining their analytic skills. Systemic changes in engineering education will enable 21st century engineers to handle rapidly evolving technologies. Industry—one of the primary catalysts for these changes—is taking an active role in advising ABET and the academic community on how engineering education can be improved.

Curriculum improvement. To compete in today's global economy, companies need people with diverse skills, ideas, and knowledge. Engineering students must learn to accommodate change and be able to handle evolving trends in industry. Universities must retain traditional strengths in math and engineering fundamentals while emphasizing enhanced information technology. Also, they must emphasize integrated design and manufacturing skills, and place new emphasis on ethics, teamwork, and process-related issues. Industries will collaborate with universities to develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula that will meet the needs of industry and government.

Diversity. In the absence of a comprehensive national strategy to address today's and tomorrow's technological workplace needs, CMC members are partnering with ASEE and other engineering education organizations that support diverse STEM pipeline development programs. The programs must focus on increasing enrollment in engineering programs. Industry and education partnerships must collaborate on engineering, science, and technology graduate school enrollment programs to increase the ethnic minorities and women pool of faculty, deans, and administrative positions.

Internships and education. Industry's goal is to increase the opportunities for both students and faculty to learn more about real-world environments at industry sites. Internships, fellowships, and class visits/tours are encouraged and widely supported. Concurrently, industry wants employees proactively participating with academe in STEM-based venues, such as advisory boards, classroom and workshop presentations, and supporting capstone-type projects.

Research and commercialization of invention. The dialogue between industry and academia has changed from the advancement of knowledge and the instruction of graduate students to a discussion between lawyers and technology transfer offices about intellectual property. In a global economy, this model has become counterproductive. In testimony before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space hearing's on nanotechnology, Hewlett-Packard scientist R. Stanley Williams stated, “Due to U.S. universities' interpretation of the intellectual property-sharing regime created under Bayh-Dole, it is easier to work with foreign universities rather than U.S. academic institutions.”

National and international forums. The growth of the global economy and the number of companies engaged in multinational R&D, manufacturing, sales, and support is creating interesting opportunities for the engineering community. Companies recognize the need for mobility of credentials across geopolitical boundaries and the ability of a diverse technological workforce to work on global teams. CMC will participate in and support the international activities of U.S. organizations and their global counterparts addressing the subject of mobility and global quality assurance.

Pipeline and educational funding. Fewer pre-college students are interested in pursuing science and math fundamentals necessary to major in STEM disciplines in college and beyond. Industry will support partnerships between themselves, universities, and school districts that prepare an increasing number of students from diverse groups to successfully participate in engineering and technology programs.

This is the CMC vision because we realize that “The Future is Now.”


CMC members Isadore Davis, Raytheon Corp.; Joe Tidwell, Boeing Corp.; Ray Haynes, Northrop Grumman; and Joe O'Brien, Hewlett-Packard prepared this report.

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