Preparing students for the future

Hollywood directors are said to be as good as their last film. Maintaining their reputation means continuing to produce high-quality work that reflects the tastes and expectations of the time.

A similar measure applies to engineers. Although they have more than a century’s worth of major contributions to wealth, health and quality of life, the next century will require that they innovate at a faster rate. The explosion of technology and use of new materials and processes have dramatically and irreversibly changed the practice of engineering, and the pace of this change is accelerating. But can engineering education—the profession’s basic source of training and skill—keep up with growing demands?

Today’s engineering students are entering the workforce at a time when almost every industry is being disrupted, meaning they need to acquire many more skills—in broader areas—than their predecessors. As the world becomes more complex, engineers must understand the human dimensions of technology, have a grasp of global issues, be sensitive to cultural diversity and know how to communicate effectively. On page 26, Associate Editor Marika Bigongiari explores the evolution of our education system, which is shaping students into well-rounded and versatile engineers who can take on this ever-changing world, beginning with the infusion of arts into what has been traditionally known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but this subtle shift in curricula enables students to develop creative thinking and essential soft skills by connecting with traditional STEM material through experiential learning and active engagement.

In his debut article for Engineering Dimensions, new Associate Editor Adam Sidsworth reflects on why university co-operative education programs are worthwhile for engineering students. Although currently largely optional in Ontario universities, co-op work placements allow students to obtain valuable experience that helps bridge the gap between school, the workplace and the required four years’ experience to become a professional engineer (“Bridging the gap”). Equally important, it helps students develop confidence in their skills and a better sense of what they want to do.  

Please also take a moment to read the inspiring biographies of the 11 engineers who will be recognized this year with Ontario Professional Engineers Awards. They will be celebrated at a black-tie gala on November 17 in Toronto, Ontario. For more information, visit www.opeawards.ca. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our annual call for ideas. I always enjoy reading your thoughts and feedback. It is very much appreciated.

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