June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.424.1 - 11.424.7
Determining How to Teach Project Management Concepts to Engineers
Project management is becoming a crucial skill in today’s work environment. Practicing engineers learned technical concepts in their university studies, but few actually learned project management concepts. These “soft skills” are often overlooked because they are not mandated by accreditation boards – yet. This paper proposes several options for including project management concepts in a university curriculum without sacrificing the time spent on technical concepts.
In today’s competitive business environment, engineers cannot afford to be pure engineers. In the last decade, many companies have reduced the numbers and levels of management positions and given more decision-making authority to teams at lower levels. Many engineers are now either faced with management responsibilities at their current positions, or promoted to higher positions1. Therefore, they need to have Project Management (PM) skills to manage various aspects of a project-driven technological organization combining engineering problems, human factors, and financial issues and to work in a cross-functional team either as a manager or as a member of the team.
A recent survey included more than 100 senior-level PM practitioners and 97% of the respondents said PM adds value to their organizations2. Consequently, to be successful in this work environment, it is crucial for engineers to have some level of PM knowledge. Companies would prefer that engineers gain this PM knowledge BEFORE they join the workforce. The big question is: what are universities doing today to introduce tomorrow’s employees to PM concepts?
Although many universities include a few very basic PM concepts spread about in their curriculum, most universities do not provide detailed PM instruction3. Why not? After all, many companies are expecting new graduates to be productive on their first day of work, and a solid understanding of PM concepts helps these new employees to be more productive team members.
The problem lies in competing goals of a university, a discipline prerequisite knowledge, and the national engineering accreditation organizations. There are only so many credit hours in a typical Bachelors of Science curriculum. • Most universities want to ensure that a graduate has a broad knowledge of the arts and sciences. To attain this goal, the universities require that students have a minimum number of hours of English, communications, humanities and social science, as well as science. Engineers typically do not have difficulty addressing the science requirements. However, these arts course requirements can account for 20-30% of a student’s credit hours. Few schools consider project management courses a social science course.
Conrad, J. (2006, June), Determining How To Teach Project Management Concepts To Engineers Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1433
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