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What Do Engineering Students Really Need for the Workplace and Life?

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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

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kenneth W. Van Treuren Baylor University

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Ken Van Treuren is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at Baylor University. He received his B. S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and his M. S. in Engineering from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. After serving as USAF pilot in KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, he completed his DPhil in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom and returned to the USAF Academy to teach heat transfer and propulsion systems. At Baylor University, he teaches courses in laboratory techniques, fluid mechanics, energy systems, and propulsion systems, as well as freshman engineering. Research interests include renewable energy to include small wind turbine aerodynamics and experimental convective heat transfer as applied to HVAC and gas turbine systems.

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William M. Jordan P.E. Baylor University

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William Jordan is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Baylor University. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in metallurgical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an M.A. degree in theology from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in mechanics and materials from Texas A & M University. He teaches materials-related courses and does research with natural fiber composite materials. He is also interested in entrepreneurship,sustainable engineering, and appropriate technology in developing countries.

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What Skills Do Engineering Students Really Need to Prepare for the Workplace and Life?

How does the university prepare students for graduation? For what is the university held accountable? How do students participate in their preparation process? What does industry contribute? These are questions that faculty and engineering programs must consider. The university setting is thought to provide the environment to help students transition from high school to being an adult. Are graduates really prepared for what lies ahead? Each year technology changes impacting the requirements has for engineering entry level jobs. It is estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in new job types that do not exist using technologies that have not been invented. Students must increasingly be prepared for the unexpected in the workplace. Disruptive technologies will have a profound impact on industry and society as a whole. Faculty must also be ready for these changes and adapt engineering programs to this new world. Thus, it is good to periodically examine current engineering programs in light of these anticipated changes and to suggest improvements to the curriculum/programs. Increasingly, the Industrial Advisory Boards will become an important source of industry trends to help define the skills needed for the graduating engineer. These skill requirements can be broken down in to five main areas. First students need academic skills as broadly identified by ABET and their individual institution. While some standardization does exist, there is much each institution can control to make the experience unique to their institution and to emphasize what is thought to be important for their programs. Second, professional skills are necessary so that the graduating engineer can function in the industrial environment. One could develop a long list of these skills which would include such topics as teamwork, leadership, and business understanding. Many of these skills are practiced in the academic curriculum. Other critical skills are not. More can be done to identify and to reinforce the professional skills required by new employers. Third, social skills should not be forgotten. For example, with the advent of social media students interact less on the personal level, face-to-face. This lack of physical interaction has an impact on developing relationships whether they be personal or in the workplace. Fourth, life skills are necessary for students to function on their own, away from the extended family or the university campus. It is important to develop a life balance between personal and company activities. Part of being a contributing member of society is using these skills in service to the community and beyond. Last, spiritual awareness is important for any student to realize there is more to life than what is physically around us. Ultimately, the student is responsible for being ready to face the world at graduation. However, while the engineering programs cannot do everything to prepare students for this event, engineering programs should do what they can to adequately prepare students to make a difference when they graduate. This will increase the probability of the success of the graduates who will then become productive members of society, ready to face its challenges.

Van Treuren, K. W., & Jordan, W. M. (2019, June), What Do Engineering Students Really Need for the Workplace and Life? Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33550

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