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Bridging The Gap: Student Perceptions Of What The Workplace Demands

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.244.1 - 6.244.9



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Paper Authors

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Ted Aanstoos

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Steven Nichols

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2793

Bridging the Gap: Student Perceptions of what the Workplace Demands

Ted A. Aanstoos, Steven P. Nichols

Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin


Baccalaureate engineers have solid theoretical, analytical, and problem solving skills, but they are often ill equipped to “hit the ground running” in industry. Companies recruiting engineering graduates often urge Universities to place extra emphasis on budgeting/finance, marketing, negotiations, team building, communications, and other areas. Traditionally, these professional skills are taught on-the-job by mentoring, “stand and deliver” instruction, correspondence, computer-based instruction, etc. Such internal training may require several months of a new engineer’s first year on the job.

In a recent course in Engineering Professional Responsibility, student teams were assigned a semester research project in which they were tasked to 1) Analyze their own four-year curriculum in comparison to other Universities, 2) Determine the preferred set of knowledge/skills/abilities at the entry level for the job they plan to seek, and 3) Plan the supplemental education (through seminars, short courses, certificate courses, etc) required to “bridge the gap.” In researching for this project, student teams were encouraged to contact engineering alumnae, company human resource offices, and company recruiters. Key questions were asked of each of these sources with respect to a typical “dream job” defined by each team according to their preference.

This paper describes the assignment and research methods used for it, and summarizes several excellent and interesting reports that were delivered in response. It is apparent from this exercise that informing undergraduate engineering students about assets they will need in the workplace better prepares them to face, and bridge, the Gap.


In 1998 ME 204, “Professional Responsibility in Engineering” was added to our curriculum as a two-credit hour, basic sequence course1. The format is a 1-hour lecture and a 1-hour workshop, both of which meet each week. The faculty instructor gives the lectures, while teaching assistants lead the workshops, which are limited to 30 students each. Stated objectives of the course included:

• Develop an understanding of the Professional Responsibility of Engineers • Develop analytical skills for identifying and evaluating issues of Professional Responsibility

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Aanstoos, T., & Nichols, S. (2001, June), Bridging The Gap: Student Perceptions Of What The Workplace Demands Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--8964

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