The article, The Graduate, by Kerry Hannon
in the May/June issue of Prism was quite thought provoking. As Ms.
Hannon put it, the corporations want the whole ball of waxsoft
skills, science skills, and diversity. I would suggest, however,
that the concept of academic supply/industrial demand is
inherently flawed. This is so because it assumes that (1) all education
at the university is the responsibility of the engineering/engineering
technology faculty, and (2) that industry need make no meaningful
commitment to the education of future engineers/technologists.
On the first point, current university expectations
often require that a future technologist/engineer complete a core
of just the sort of soft skills and full-blown humanities
courses referred to by Ms. Hannon. She states that schools
are just not quite sure what the best methods to teach communications
skills are likely to be
I respectfully disagree. If soft skills
are not being effectively taught, it is incumbent upon industry to
communicate with the faculty responsible for teaching those skills.
Failure to involve all the players is perhaps part of the reason
why industrial soft- skill expectations are not currently
being fully met.
On the second point, the function of any education
is to provide a student with the basics of his/her profession.
Education is in marked contrast to training. When industry finds university
graduates wanting, it may be that industry has chosen not to
with training the graduate for industrial employment. Once again,
failure to involve all the players is perhaps part of the reason
why industrial expectations aren't being fully met.
To address this situation, a number of meaningful steps
could be taken. First, cooperative education as a requirement for
graduation needs to be expanded and be supported by industry. The
cost to industry of the co-op approach must certainly compare favorably
with the current massive troop movements by industrial recruiters
who scurry from campus to campus and fly potential candidates to
cities like Denver for half-day interviews.
Second, more professional involvement with students
is necessary. When a student reports to a committee at a professional
society meeting, the student is developing interpersonal skills.
When the student visits a job site, the need for organization,
communication, and planning becomes real. In summary, to improve engineering/engineering
technology education, let's invoke a team approach involving
and committing all the players.
Andrew C. Kellie
Professor, Department of Industrial & Engineering
Murray State University