Are engineering students getting the experience they need to be successful?

April 1, 2015

Bridging "the gap" between academia and real-life engineering.

R. Russell Rhinehart

I'd like to address the gap between the academic and practice control community—why it exists, the issues it creates, things that can be done to bridge the gap and the need for industry mobilization to cause change. My focus is on the U.S. situation. There are two issues. One is the general lack of practice experience in the faculty, which aligns student perspectives to the science/research "way," and the other is the absence of a control engineering curriculum.

There seems to be general agreement, in both industry and academe, that engineering faculty should have engineering practice experience. If professors are going to teach students how to be engineers, the instructors need to understand engineering. However, there is little practice experience among faculty. As a result, students are guided by the research, science, perfection, individual performance and intellectual values that characterize their teachers; not the contrasting values related to sufficiency, urgency, compliance, partnership, safety, personal effectiveness and fruition that are essential for business success. Furthermore, students are taught engineering science principles, which is good, but in an idealized and out-of-context manner, which is not. While I think we do an excellent job in preparing engineering students with the technical skills needed for them to become engineers, we do it within an academic context. As a result, they do not graduate with the perspectives and expectations to be successful in the disparate context of industrial practice.

To learn more about training and education, read “Is a College Education Enough to Get Young Engineers Ready for the Workforce?” from Control.

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