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The Challenge of Higher Education – Employability: Does the Workforce Have What Employers Need

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Working at the Intersection of Industry and Academia

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

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Paper Authors


Evan Harpenau

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Evan M. Harpenau, M.S.

Mr. Evan M. Harpenau is currently a Radiological Engineer at Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC. for the U.S. Department of Energy. Mr. Harpenau holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University in Radiological Health
Science/Health Physics and Leadership, Technology, and Innovation, respectively. Mr. Harpenau has 13 years of
Applied Health Physics experience including radiological decontamination and decommissioning projects across the country; domestic and international environmental assessment and verification work coupled with radiochemical characterization studies for Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed sites; and as the lead radiological instructor supporting the Global Materials Security - Office of Radiological Security. Mr. Harpenau is also a member of the Department of Energy’s Radiological Assistance and Emerging Threats Programs.

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Evelyn Ann Kaelin

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Evelyn Kaelin is a Senior Manufacturing Engineer with Acuity Brands Lighting. She graduated with an A.A.S in Computer Integrated Manufacturing from Vincennes University; going on to complete a B.S. in the same discipline from Indiana State University. After spending over 15 years in Manufacturing she decided to pursue her passion of being a leader by completing a M.S. in Technology, Leadership, & Innovation from Purdue University. Thinking outside the box and looking at different perspectives is what sets a leader apart. As leaders are faced with obstacles that become their responsibility to overcome. It’s in these moments that the reaction and allowances made for change and progress are center stage. It is this skill to overcome and push forward as part of a team that drives continuous improvement. Evelyn is passionate about the prospect of intertwining leadership with hard and soft skills to make continuous improvement within herself, her team, her company, and the world around her. She currently resides in Crawfordsville, IN with her husband and daughter. Her family is heavily involved in their local community theater (The Vanity Theater). She can be reached at

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Meg Piechocki

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Megan Piechocki is a Nonprofit Professional with a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Purdue University. Currently Megan is the Aquatics Director and Retreats Associate at YMCA Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, Indiana. Megan is passionate about youth development, leadership principles and practices, and the YMCA Camping movement. When she is not at work she is spending time with her family traveling and enjoying nature.

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Mitchell L. Springer PMP, SPHR, SHRM-SCP Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette

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Dr. Mitchell L. Springer

Dr. Springer currently serves as an Executive Director for Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute located in West Lafayette, Indiana. He has over thirty-five years of theoretical and defense industry-based practical experience from four disciplines: software engineering, systems engineering, program management and human resources. Dr. Springer possesses a significant strength in pattern recognition, analyzing and improving organizational systems. He is internationally recognized and has contributed to scholarship more than 300 books, articles, presentations, editorials and reviews on software development methodologies, management, organizational change, and program management. Dr. Springer sits on many university and community boards and advisory committees. He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including local, regional and national recognitions for leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion; as well as, recognition for exceptional teaching and support of military connected students.

Dr. Springer is the President of the Indiana Council for Continuing Education as well as the Past-Chair of the Continuing Professional Development Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Dr. Springer received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Purdue University, his MBA and Doctorate in Adult and Community Education with a Cognate in Executive Development from Ball State University. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR & SHRM-SCP), in Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and, in civil and domestic mediation. Dr. Springer is a State of Indiana Registered domestic mediator.

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Higher Education has been tasked, and is being charged, with providing the required skills and knowledge required of employers in today’s high-tech globally-oriented workforce. To better understand the requirements of the workforce today, it is necessary to look at employability and employment needs from three seemingly related, yet clearly separate perspectives; namely, opportunities in the government, private and non-profit sectors.

The research contained herein, studied the impact on employability from each of these three identified sectors of employment. The evidence and data collected represents the 2010 to 2017 timeframe, but suggests similar requirements through past decades, adjusted for technological growth and historical period-specific employment opportunities. The original hypothesis focused on employability from the standpoint of what employers are looking for and what skills applicants possess within the three sectors identified above, all within the United States.

The results of the study showed that the above target markets have changed over the years and that employers in these markets are looking for overlapping similar skills with a few unique differentiating attributes across the distinct sectors.

The examination of different aspects of employment, specifically unemployment and availability of applicants, uncovered data suggesting there are numerous, yet potentially different skills and attributes that employers require that are paramount to the knowledge, experiences, and perspectives applicants are required to bring to the job market.

Harpenau, E., & Kaelin, E. A., & Piechocki, M., & Springer, M. L. (2019, June), The Challenge of Higher Education – Employability: Does the Workforce Have What Employers Need Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33374

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015