Proceedings of a Workshop
Engineering Societies’ Activities in Helping to Align the Needs and Goals of Industry and Academia
Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief
In the last of a series of workshops on the role of engineering societies in engineering education in the United States, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) held a workshop to (a) explore ways the societies can help better align engineering education with the needs of industry; (b) provide an opportunity for companies, institutions of higher education, and societies to share promising practices; and (c) investigate possible collaborative actions. The workshop took place December 6, 2018, in Washington, DC.
The topic of the workshop arose out of related concerns raised at an initial workshop in January 2017 on the relationship between engineering societies and engineering education. Other follow-up workshops examined the possibility of establishing a multidisciplinary and multisociety student competition focused on the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering, ways for engineering societies to influence measures of faculty impact, and engineering societies’ activities in promoting diversity and inclusion.1
Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean Emerita of Engineering and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University and chair of the program committee for the workshop series, welcomed participants and outlined the agenda for this final workshop.2
The workshop began with perspectives from representatives of two companies and two universities to explore where priorities are aligned, where they are misaligned, and the biggest challenges to improve alignment. Next, representatives of engineering societies briefly described their current activities that seek to improve alignment. The third session considered examples of effective interactions between industry and academia and keys to successful partnerships. Finally, the workshop participants split into breakout groups to brainstorm and identify issues, barriers, and opportunities in response to four questions.
PERSPECTIVES FROM INDUSTRY AND ACADEMIA
The opening session explored the issue of alignment from both industry and academic perspectives.
Dramatic changes have altered what many industries need from their engineers. Dora Smith, senior director of the Global Academic Program for Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Digital Factory Division, described the company’s transformation to remake itself into a software company. Today, the entire product lifecycle, from the earliest stages of product ideation to product development and use, generates data that need to be analyzed by engi-
1 Proceedings of the workshops and other project materials are available at https://www.nae.edu/Activities/Projects/126089.aspx.
2 The workshop agenda and presentations are available at https://www.nae.edu/195303/NAE-Workshop-on-Engineering-Societies-Activities-in-Helping-Align-Industry-and-Academia.
neers. Even if graduates are hired as mechanical or electrical engineers, they need strong cross-disciplinary digital skills, said Smith.
But industry needs go beyond digital skills. Smith noted that a Siemens-commissioned study of 200 manufacturers found that companies wanted students with an understanding of areas such as product costing and manufacturability, and knowledge about their specific industry.
The need for digital literacy extends beyond engineering and manufacturing functions, Smith continued. People in business, purchasing, customer support, and other areas need to understand the impacts of new technologies and be conversant in the language of those technologies. “How do we take that into the business schools and other programs outside of the core engineering programs?”
At the same time, Smith said, engineers need a variety of non-engineering skills to do their jobs well. These include project management, self-directed learning, systems thinking, and industry-specific knowledge. Such skills are often essential to apply engineering know-how to solve problems.
She particularly emphasized the need for real-world learning throughout college, not just in capstone or extracurricular activities. One way to achieve such learning is through apprenticeship programs, which have long been a feature of Siemens’ approach to workforce development. Smith described Siemens’ apprenticeship programs as a “learn and earn model” that allows students to be engaged for longer periods of time and brings more diverse employees into the company, including people who have not gone through traditional educational routes.
Siemens also makes use of new credentialing methods, such as mechatronics certification. And Smith praised the idea of sabbatical programs for faculty members to work in companies to broaden their understanding of the needs of industry.
Siemens is finding only about half the talent it needs, Smith concluded. “We need to find more creative ways to make the pipeline larger and have students who understand how to learn, because they’re going to have to be in a mode of continuous learning throughout their career to keep up with where technology is going and how fast it’s changing.” She noted that universities and industry may be aligned on the “what” of student skills, but not on the “how.”
Steve Chisholm, vice president and senior chief of structures engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, stressed the importance of a competent, diverse, and communicative workforce and cited the need for practical, hands-on skills, which can be developed through such means as capstone classes and competitions. Communication skills and business acumen are also important to help Boeing create not only products but also value for its customers.
One way Boeing seeks to instill these skills in its new engineers is through partnerships with educational institutions near its facilities; for example, Boeing engineers teach a course at the University of Washington and spend as much as half the class talking about the transition into the workforce. This arrangement is a powerful way to align students’ interest and knowledge with the needs of a major local employer, although Chisholm acknowledged that it works best if the company is near a university.
However, Boeing still does a lot of internal education to ensure that newly hired engineers are ready to work. He stated that universities and industry were only aspirationally aligned and that there needs to be more dialogue to ensure that students are learning what industry needs.
Beyond skills, he underscored the importance of varieties of diversity in engineering. When he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Washington 35 years ago, only about 10 percent of the students were women and remained at a low percentage for many years. Now women account for about 25 percent, in part because of the school’s variety of offerings.
He also recognized diversity of thought, background, and even communication styles. “We need to have all voices as part of the conversation,” he said. “Some voices are louder than others, and we need to make sure that we set up a system that appreciates all the voices.”
Perspectives from Academia
The two speakers from academia voiced concern that industry and academia were not aligned in their priorities.
Colleges and universities are struggling to adapt to the same trends that have transformed industry, noted Gregory Washington, Stacey Nicholas Dean of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. As a result of accelerated technological development, more than half of the top ten in-demand jobs in 2017 did not exist in 2007, and those of the future similarly cannot be foreseen with much certainty. “We have to prepare students for those realities,
and we have to do it quickly,” he said. If colleges and universities cannot do this, they risk “falling tragically out of sync with the needs and aspirations of the people they serve.”
Washington organized his priorities for engineering programs into three categories. The first is modernization, the provision of high-quality education in a high-demand, resource-limited environment. This requires innovations in content delivery (e.g., online learning and flipped classrooms), infrastructure (e.g., specialized facilities for hands-on experiences), grading (e.g., automated assessments), instruction (e.g., tenure-track professors who focus on teaching and pedagogy), and preparation of K–12 students (e.g., by exposing them to engineering before college).
The second priority is the need for expanded entrepreneurship and experiential learning opportunities, which can help break down what one workshop participant called the “compartmentalization” of learning experiences into classroom experiences and out-of-classroom experiences. These include global opportunities, Washington added: With more than three-quarters of all new research capacity being built outside the United States, engineering students should expect to have a global assignment sometime during their careers.
The third priority is engagement of populations that are underrepresented in engineering. Washington noted that although more than a third of the college-age population is Latino and African American, these groups are still not well represented in engineering.
Engineering education is not currently designed for the constant churn and continuous upskilling that today’s workforce demands, Washington concluded. “We will not be able to put everything that’s needed for industry into a four-year 124-credit-hour program,” he said. Even as traditional education is augmented with industry-oriented activities such as internships, co-ops, and student projects, he sees a transition away from four-year degrees to new forms of credentials and micro-certifications.
Oscar Barton, Jr., professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at George Mason University, stated that during his 22 years at the US Naval Academy, he knew that the institution’s mission and the goals of its students were well matched. Faculty brought the equivalent of a customer’s perspective: they knew the pathways their students would be entering and could prepare them accordingly.
At George Mason University, Barton has found that the connection between students and their future professions is less direct. Students need to do well technically but also need a well-rounded experience to be competent professionally. Students have varied goals—some want to go into engineering practice, others are interested in the policy implications of engineering, and others want to serve society in different ways. Faculty members have diverse backgrounds, but many do not have an industrial perspective.
Programs need to be flexible and provide students with a range of opportunities to realize their goals, said Barton. For example, George Mason is exploring the possibility of letting engineering students choose electives in other fields such as policy, government, economics, and law. “Somehow we have to build these experiences into 120 credit hours, so that the students, when they walk out that door, are prepared to be able to face these challenges.” He also mentioned a new senior seminar called Developing the Societal Engineer, in which students acquire workplace skills such as strategic planning, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, communication, and business development through a case-based approach.
Faculty members also need opportunities to enhance their skills and abilities so that they are not only technically proficient but also based in practice, so that students who want to move directly into industry are exposed to real-world issues. And students need to learn how to continue to learn well after they leave an engineering program. The challenges they will face in the year 2050 are not now known, but today’s students will need to be able to confront them.
During the discussion, participants noted the importance of co-op programs and internships in giving students real-world experience, the value of courses that combine technical and nontechnical skills, and the danger of overloading students with too many credit requirements. Industry can play an important role in the accreditation process and the development of program criteria.
The issue of diversity generated an extended discussion about how to engage women in engineering and make sure they are welcomed in the profession. It is important to put a human face on engineering to show that it involves working with others, problem solving, and working on issues that are important in society. Programs that are traditionally less attractive to women, such as mechanical and electrical engineering, need to be especially targeted. Efforts need to start at the pre-K and elementary school levels, and more female faculty in engineering are needed as role models.
It was also noted that in efforts to increase diversity, messaging is critical. The 2008 NAE report Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering recommended connecting community needs, at local and global levels, with engineering and widely disseminating the message that engineers improve the human condition.3 As Jamieson observed, this message has not yet become pervasive.
Burt Dicht, director of student and academic educational programs for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), described a recent survey of young professionals that asked what they wish they had learned before beginning their jobs. Many said they wished they had known more about business skills and other soft skills. They responded that they did not understand various job functions at companies, such as what a designer, analyst, or safety engineer does, or the different types of companies and their fields, such as aerospace, power, or software.
In a series of “lightning round” presentations, representatives of engineering societies described their activities that promote alignment between the needs and goals of industry and academia.
Linking Industry and Academia through a Technology Challenge. The AutoDrive Challenge is one of the ways that SAE International has sought to improve industry-academia alignment, explained Chris Ciuca, the organization’s director of preprofessional education. The goals of the three-year program are to build formal workforce development connections between industry and academia, establish an integrated standards-based educational program, and provide the latest resources, equipment, and training needed to accelerate development. Universities create academic experiences designed around the competition, industry mentors go into classrooms, faculty advisors participate in industry-led workshops, and students develop solutions to specific problems and test them in real-world scenarios. By getting industry involved in a cross-curricular academic setting, said Ciuca, “on-the-job training” takes place in an academic environment rather than during the first few years of employment.
Defining a Body of Knowledge. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has defined a body of knowledge for the profession characterized by technical depth and breadth and professional practice breadth, with underlying core competencies in the natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences, said Leslie Nolen, ASCE director of educational activities. The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century describes the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for the practice of civil engineering at the professional level and is derived in part from ASCE’s Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025. The body of knowledge attempts to be flexible to encompass the broad cross-section of civil engineers and to anticipate and accommodate new concepts and technologies, although there is concern about whether the eight-year cycle for revisions is sufficient to stay current. In addition, industry has not yet fully embraced the concept, said Nolen. ASCE is working on initiatives to encourage industry to take advantage of the body of knowledge and use it to support their education activities—for example, through mentored experiences for new career civil engineers.
Bridging the University-Industry Gap through Student Activities. The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering North America (SAMPE NA) has student programs and competitions that seek to align the goals and educational needs of students, faculty members, and industrial partners through leadership development, academic research visibility, and networking opportunities, said Karin Anderson, SAMPE NA’s president. The Leadership Experience Program invites students to participate in SAMPE activities that expose them to potential employers and work environments. To provide academic research visibility, SAMPE’s annual University Research Symposium and poster competitions include student presentations, allowing students to engage with faculty and industry representatives. SAMPE also provides networking opportunities such as cross-campus meetings for faculty advisors and students, campus-to-campus collaboration, and conference scholarships that connect students with local and national industry. Annual Bridge and Additive Manufacturing competitions connect students to the supply chain, industry, their peers, and faculty members through hands-on activities. Finally, the SAMPE Foundation conducts K–12 STEM programs that connect industry with STEM educators.
Increasing the Interest of Girls in Engineering. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) hosts a variety of events to increase interest and opportunities for women in engineering, reported Randy Freeman, SWE’s director of student programs. For the annual SWENext DesignLab Community Engagement Challenge, high school teams design service projects that address specific environmental or economic community needs through hands-on engineering activities. Each team has a SWE advisor who helps the team think creatively and implement an activity based on accurate engi-
3Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (https://www.nae.edu/Publications/Reports/24985.aspx)
neering insights. The winning team is selected by SWE members for an all-expenses-paid trip to SWE’s annual conference, where middle and high school girls, parents, and educators have an opportunity to work with women engineers in hands-on engineering activities. The program also provides parents with information about engineering careers, scholarships, college admissions, and other resources.
Engineering Festivals. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has had particular success with its Engineering Festivals, or E-Fests, which have become “go to” events for engineering students looking to develop their professional options and chart a focused career path, according to Aisha Lawrey, ASME’s director of engineering education. E-Fests showcase students’ innovation skills and help them build an international network of fellow students and industry thought leaders. Over the course of three days and two nights, students hear from luminaries, attend career and professional development workshops, interact with sponsors and exhibitors, meet new peers, and engage in activities such as the Student Design Competition, Human-Powered Vehicle Challenge, and Innovative Additive E-Manufacturing 3D Competition.
Recognizing the cost to attend E-Fests, ASME recently created EFx events. These are low-cost, low-overhead complementary programs that are locally organized single-day events with the aim of raising ASME awareness, membership, and interest in student programs. They are collaboratively produced and programmed to provide unique sponsorship opportunities to connect local employers to local talent.
Pathways to Industry through an Engineering Honor Society. This program of IEEE’s honor society, Eta Kappa Nu, demonstrates another way to align academia and engineering, said Dicht. Eta Kappa Nu has teamed up with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) and industry to ease the transition from school to industry for young professionals, graduate student members of the society, and graduating seniors. The partnership held a workshop at ECEDHA’s annual conference to connect students with industry professionals, describe career paths for graduate students in industry, and offer insights and practical advice. In a postworkshop survey, participants reported that the workshop met their needs and interests in professional, career, and personal development; personal financial management; project management; management, negotiation, and presentation skills; and business. The partnership provides students with career path guidance in choosing between academia and industry as well as first-hand knowledge on how to succeed in industry. At the same time, industries have the opportunity to engage top-tier students and influence engineering education.
Aligning Industry and Academia through Business and Management Skills. Employers may hire for technical skills, but engineers are promoted (or fired) based on their team, business, and management skills, observed Paul Kauffmann, executive director of the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), and David Wyrick, ASEM’s director of society outreach. One opportunity to address this challenge is to incorporate the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBoK) and the Engineering Management (EM) Handbook in engineering curricula. The EMBoK provides an overview of basic management skills needed by engineers, while the handbook presents more advanced skills with detailed information and more practical skills development. A team of domain leaders representing academia and industry created both resources, which are revised on a four-year cycle. ASEM has been working to develop course materials to facilitate the use of these resources in one-, two-, and three-credit courses. To minimize course cost, ASEM’s program of academic partnership allows university groups to become ASEM members rather than requiring students to obtain an individual membership. Members can access the EMBoK and handbook for free and receive electronic versions of other society publications, including the Practice Periodical and the Engineering Management Journal. Currently, 14 universities are academic partners with ASEM.
Preparing Faculty and Students through Safety Training. Linking industry and academia to reduce process safety incidents could help prepare the next generation of chemical engineers to enter the workforce, said Louisa Nara, global technical director of the Center for Chemical Process Safety, a Technology Alliance of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The Undergraduate Process Safety Learning Initiative, a collaboration of the chemical engineering community, industry, and academia, has three major components: modernizing and developing curricula, educating faculty, and engaging and educating students. Safety and Chemical Engineering Education courses are available for free to all schools that have an AIChE chapter. To integrate the courses into curricula, AIChE hosts faculty workshops on process safety, with 15–30 professors at each. For students, AIChE offers process safety boot-camps, two-day weekend events that also provide engagement and resume-building opportunities.
Student and Faculty Training in a New Technology. Process intensification (PI) is an approach to chemical engineering that leads to substantially smaller, cleaner, safer, and more energy-efficient process technology. To address the need for engineers with knowledge of PI technologies and methods, Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID), a private-public partnership between AIChE and the US Department of Energy, developed the
Fundamentals of Process Intensification Series, said Ashley Smith-Schoettker, director of education and workforce development for RAPID. An elearning course is geared toward undergraduate engineering students, while faculty workshops focus on how to incorporate PI concepts in the curriculum. RAPID piloted a faculty workshop at the 2018 AIChE annual meeting and is working to refine the course with standardized problems, lessons, and case studies.
Meeting Industry’s Educational Needs on Sustainability. Sustainability education is another way to better prepare students for the workforce, explained Jeff Fergus, former director of professional development for the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS). In a 2013 survey of TMS industrial members, the majority reported that sustainability is an important consideration in business and technical decisions, but this importance is not reflected in graduating engineers’ competencies. Greater alignment is needed in all the major topics related to sustainability, said Fergus. The gap between actual and desired levels of proficiency is wide, especially in energy use and efficiency, recycling and reuse, lifecycle analysis, and corporate social responsibility. TMS has four education-related committees—Accreditation, Professional Registration, Education, and Professional Development—working to better prepare undergraduates for sustainability and other issues in engineering. For example, the Professional Development Committee is looking at developing short courses and webinars to meet the needs of industry, and the Education Committee is considering ways to provide guidance to academic programs on how to reduce that proficiency gap.
Aligning Industry and Academia at the American Nuclear Society. The Education, Training, and Workforce Development Division of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) provides platforms for communication and sponsors activities for ANS members in academia, government, and industry, reported Daniel Carleton, ANS treasurer and project manager of Terrestrial Energy USA. The Industry, University, and Government Relations Subcommittee convenes twice a year during ANS’s national meetings to provide a forum for members in academia to inquire about ways to better align with industry needs and for government officials to promote joint funding opportunities for industry and academia. In addition, ANS’s biennial Conference on Nuclear Training and Education features breakout sessions where industry members identify the needs of the future workforce. These sessions provide valuable information for attendees from academia to adapt their programs to better accommodate industry needs.
Additional Comments. From the floor, Jim Hill (Iowa State and AIChE) noted that surveys of the chemical industry have shown “a marked shift in faculty expertise away from the core areas of chemical engineering that are most sought after by industry.” This is especially true in industry needs for expertise in nanotechnology and biotechnology. There are fewer faculty with industry experience, he said, and more with a background in chemistry rather than chemical engineering, although some universities are attempting to address this imbalance with the creation of industrial postdoc programs for new faculty.
Later in the discussion, it was noted that ASEE has a four-phase series of workshops on Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering; the fourth focused on engineering society engagement.
RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK
After the lightning round, five presenters did a deeper dive into examples of interactions that have worked and what has made them work.
Strategies to Achieve Technology Competencies
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) partnered with the Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) Manufacturing Institute in Detroit to discuss workforce needs while new technologies are being developed rather than after they have been deployed, explained Jim Woodell, an independent consultant and former vice president for economic development and community engagement at APLU. Together, they put together an expert educator team of people who know technology well and also know about teaching and learning. A representative of a LIFT technology team, from either industry or academia, described to the expert educator team one of 11 identified technologies and a roadmap for its development. After discussion, the educator team recommended strategies for education and workforce development around that technology, which the technology team then built into the technology work plans.
The partnership’s recommendations for colleges and universities included the development of competencies for each technology and strategies to achieve those competencies. A particular focus has been work-and-learn approaches so that undergraduates get experience in real-world environments. In addition, the partnership has called for a better understanding of intersecting roles, responsive curricula, and the institutionalization of work-and-learn approaches.
In the second year of the initiative, the partners did a more in-depth analysis of the education and workforce strategies for the 11 technologies. A report, Engineering Work-and-Learn: Imperatives for Innovation, and a series of technol-
ogy briefs provided information about the technologies and about the educational and workforce strategies needed to achieve competencies related to them. The final report, Aligning Technology and Talent Development: Recommendations from the APLU and NCMS-led Expert Educator Team, summarized all the recommendations about how LIFT can help engineering programs at four- and two-year institutions be more responsive to industry needs. For example, it discussed supporting competencies that are addressed in existing curricula and those that are probably not addressed.
Engineering societies could play a critical role in disseminating this information to both industry and academia, Woodell said. They could also help produce multi-environment work-and-learn experiences at innovative laboratories, campus research and development facilities, and companies.
Working with Industry to Meet the Construction Industry’s Needs
At the request of industry, the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington recently developed a bachelor’s of science degree in construction management, in part to meet the needs of more than $27 billion in construction projects in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. According to Ali Abolmaali, chair of the department, many companies of all sizes motivated, supported, and embraced the initiative, and the program sought to address the needs identified by the companies. These needs included preparing budgets and schedules, reading and interpreting drawings, interacting with project stakeholders, and working with new digital tools in construction management. The initiative then sought to map these needs onto the department’s curriculum.
Texas has the second-highest number of construction managers (after California), with a mean annual wage of over $100,000. The Dallas–Fort Worth area is growing rapidly, as are enrollments in civil engineering, yet no regional institutions offered a bachelor’s degree in construction management. The new program was immediately popular: from an enrollment of 51 in its first year (2017–18) it more than doubled to 129 in its second year. The program has 42 credit-hours of general education requirements, 69 credit-hours of required courses, and 3 credit-hours of prescribed electives. Monthly meetings with an industry advisory board have led to modifications in the curriculum and a thriving internship program for 20–25 students each semester. Intensive advising and social gatherings have helped make the program “one of the most successful in North Texas,” said Abolmaali.
Mutual Benefits for Industry and Academia: Purdue and Cummins
Greg Shaver, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, said that one of his research goals is to create challenging, interesting, relevant, career-launching research and learning opportunities for Purdue students. He does that in part through partnerships with industry, government, other universities, and engineering societies to create cleaner, more efficient, and safer commercial vehicles.
As an example, he described an extensive, mutually beneficial partnership between Purdue and Cummins, an Indiana-based manufacturer of engines, power systems, and other industrial products. For Cummins, Shaver observed that students become aware of the company, and graduate students have opportunities to do internships there; half of Shaver’s 36 former graduate students now work at Cummins. A component of the project called “Cummins in the Classroom” involves lecture case studies, hands-on labs, guest lectures, and other educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Research done through the program has resulted in the development of new tools, techniques, and technologies, and the dissemination of precompetitive research results via publications and presentations. In addition, stakeholders are informed about possible technical pathways for improved impacts, such as cleaner air and higher efficiency, outcomes that are attractive to the current generation of engineering students interested in making a positive difference in the world.
Purdue derives benefits from the partnership above and beyond the approximately $650,000 annually for three years that Cummins is devoting to research on commercial vehicle plug-in hybrids and diesel and natural gas engines. Students have access to experts and real-world problems. They receive funding, hardware, and software support for their collaborative work. Testbeds for industrial technologies can be used for research and teaching. Close collaboration with industrial partners creates highly trained researchers, and students learn things through their work that they could not learn at a university alone.
Providing Tools Needed by Industry and Academia
Design, construction, and manufacturing are all going through major changes, as are the tools used in those activities, said Jeff Smith, education manager at Autodesk. The process of making things has in the past been linear, progressing from concept to design to production to sale to operation to retirement and possible reuse. In the future, the process will become more circular, with a constant interplay among design, manufacturing, and use. For example, manufacturing will move toward multiconfiguration microfactories that have the flexibility to not only personalize products but also engage in agile product development and production. The result will be connected services and products-as-services that continually improve over time.
The education division at Autodesk, which has about 40 people worldwide and 10 in the United States, partners with about 30 postsecondary institutions in the United States. It seeks to act as a “pollinating bee,” Smith explained, and as a catalyst for cross-program multidisciplinary collaboration. It also seeks to build relationships between the commercial world and education, in part because Autodesk has seen that its commercial customers have high-paying positions that are unfilled because of a lack of qualified high school and university graduates. One way it seeks to build these relationships is to provide its software free to educational institutions. Doing so can inspire younger students to imagine, design, and create, Smith said. With older students, it builds a skilled talent pool and seeds the market with skilled graduates. Providing students with free access to software is one of those rare opportunities where smart business and doing the right thing intersect, Smith concluded.
Developing Broader Skills through Micro-Credentialing and Outreach
New engineers need not only specialized skills in their fields but also broader skills in areas such as communications, project management, business principles, troubleshooting, and collaboration, said Karen Thole, professor and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. But curricula are designed to teach disciplinary knowledge, and an engineering education is already demanding. Cocurricular activities can help build nontechnical skills, but they are not required and often not designed for skill development. Furthermore, most faculty have little or no industry experience where these skills are very important, and they are rewarded for their research, not for building ties to industry.
Meanwhile, Thole said, student demographics are changing, even public institutions are increasingly expensive, and engineering societies are seeing declining memberships. These trends point to the need for greater alignment between academia and industry to help students tailor their skills to be successful in their careers.
Thole described two programs involving industry that also present opportunities for engineering societies. One entails micro-credentialing workshops on topics that recent graduates said they would like to have learned. The first was an eight-hour workshop on geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. Additional workshops are planned on value engineering, project management, business principles relevant to engineers, and personal productivity. The workshops, funded through gift money, are taught by outside experts with industrial experience. (As pointed out by another workshop participant, participation in such courses by practicing engineers from industry provides them with a valuable opportunity to interact with students.) Students receive an electronic badge that they can put on their resume; it remains to be seen, however, whether the badge will be recognized by industry. During the discussion, a number of participants noted that engineering societies could play a role in the design and certification of micro-credentials.
The other program Thole described is the Engineering Ambassadors Network, a professional development program with an outreach mission. The program provides communications training and sends engineering students, many of whom are women or underrepresented minorities, to K–12 classrooms to promote engineering. Sponsoring companies have found that the program gives them an opportunity to connect with these ambassadors in valuable ways, such as internships and co-ops. Students benefit through connections with industry and increased confidence thanks to improved communication skills.
SUGGESTIONS FROM THE BREAKOUT GROUPS
After the presentations, the workshop participants broke into three groups, each of which discussed four topics: features of alignment, opportunities for greater alignment, barriers to those opportunities, and ways of overcoming the barriers. The following lists are a synthesis of the observations made in the breakout groups; they do not include points made by
the earlier speakers nor do they represent consensus recommendations from the workshop. They do, however, suggest many potentially powerful routes forward.4
What does alignment between industry and academia look like?
- No additional training is necessary: new hires are prepared for their initial jobs and for their careers.
- Students acquire the professional skills they will need for success over the long term.
- Industry and academic professionals understand and respect each other.
- ABET requirements are aligned both with the needs of industry and with learning outcomes.
- Industry and academia are flexible and adaptive so that they can change to meet new needs.
- Innovation is faster and change is quicker.
- Mechanisms exist for ongoing communication and collaboration among industry, academia, and engineering societies.
- Faculty members have industrial experience and expertise through internships, sabbaticals, and other means.
- Practicing engineers are able to move in and out of different career paths.
- Bodies of knowledge developed by academia, industry, and engineering societies provide roadmaps for curricula.
- Graduates of engineering programs have demographics comparable to the US population.
What are the opportunities for societies to foster better alignments?
- Work with their directors to collaborate on strategies to improve industry-academia alignment.
- Develop plans to increase interaction between industry and academia, including establishing industry-academia partnership councils.
- Identify the resources they have available to work on alignment and collaborate to magnify effects.
- Sponsor major student competitions and projects, within and across disciplines, on technical as well as social issues (including those posed by the NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering5).
- Work with industry to
- create bodies of knowledge for engineers,
- develop co-op guides,
- develop courses for continuing education and lifelong learning,
- oversee micro-credentialing programs offered by academia,
- develop mentorship programs for faculty, and
- create opportunities in industry for faculty and postdocs.
- Help engineers returning to the workforce get up to speed quicker and provide a professional home for those transitioning between academia and industry.
- Help increase understanding of the needs, priorities, and perspectives in industry and academia, including surveying members to determine industry needs.
- Establish apprenticeship programs and other partnerships between industry, academia, and government.
- Facilitate connections between industry, colleges and universities, and preK–12 education, creating a true preK–20 system.
- Provide free membership to students.
What are the barriers and challenges to using those mechanism?
- Insufficient funding, staffing, and time
- Lack of individuals and institutions that can drive change
- Lack of information, such as not knowing what is already in place among societies
- Lack of incentive for change, particularly in academia
- Lack of a clear value proposition, such as reducing the cost of untrained or unfilled positions
- Competing priorities within and among organizations (societies, companies, and academic institutions)
4 The full list of observations from the breakout groups is available at https://www.nae.edu/Activities/Projects/126089/167196/195303.aspx.
- Societies protecting their turf, which limits their ability to collaborate
- The narrow focus of some technology-specific societies
- Different rates and speeds of change in industry and academia.
How can the barriers be overcome?
- Identify stakeholders in industry, government, and academia, including students and recent graduates, and determine their needs.
- Organize industry advisory meetings at engineering society meetings.
- Work together on an overall message for engineering and technology, including a sequel to the 2008 NAE report Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering.
- Organize a social media campaign, making use of short video clips, Instagram, and so on.
- Establish an Engineering Societies Executive Directors Council and an Engineering Societies Education Directors Council at ASEE.
- Highlight good examples to make the value proposition clear.
- Organize industry-academia breakfasts to network and understand where others stand.
- Arrange for faculty members to work in industry and industrial engineers to work in academia, and increase the number of professors of practice.
- Update teacher practices.
- Make students and faculty a higher priority in societies.
- Create more industry representation in ABET.
- Provide tax credits to companies that support programs advancing alignment.
- Arrange for industrial engineers to mentor faculty.
“There are huge opportunities for doing better in this space,” said Jamieson in her concluding remarks. She challenged everyone at the workshop, and by implication in the broader community, to pick one thing from the list of possible actions and do it. “Figure out what the first next step is and how that might translate into action.”
DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Steve Olson and Kenan Jarboe as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
STEERING COMMITTEE ON THE ENGAGEMENT OF ENGINEERING SOCIETIES IN UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING EDUCATION: Leah Jamieson (Chair, Purdue University), Stephanie Adams (Old Dominion University), Marilyn Barger (Hillsborough Community College), Steven Brown (Loyola University), Don Giddens (Georgia Tech), Asad Madni (BEI Technologies Inc.), Tom Perry (ASME), Anne Spence (Baylor University), John Wall (Cummins, Inc.), Gregory Washington (University of California, Irvine) and STAFF: Kenan Jarboe, Senior Program Officer; and Michael Holzer, Senior Program Assistant.
We wish to especially thank Leah Jamieson, Tom Perry, Anne Spence, and John Wall of the Steering Committee for their help in organizing this workshop.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Alan Taub (monitor, University of Michigan), Ellen Kuo (ASME), Tarun Mohan Lal (Navicent Health), Leslie Nolen (ASCE), and Virginia Booth Womack (Purdue University). Janet Hunziker (National Academy of Engineering) served as the review coordinator.
SPONSORS: This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-1360962. Additional funding was provided by the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.
For additional information about the workshop, visit https://www.nae.edu/Activities/Projects/195303.aspx.
Suggested citation: National Academy of Engineering. 2019. Engineering Societies’ Activities in Helping to Align the Needs and Goals of Industry and Academia: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25445.
National Academy of Engineering
Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.