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Eplan: Change is imperative for engineers and unis

OpinionHigher Education
By Heather McLean | 10 July 2017
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Create DateJuly 10, 2017
Last UpdatedJuly 10, 2017

By Ken Christie, UK director at Eplan.

UK universities don’t see it as their responsibility to create engineers; that’s down to industry, according to the pundits. But I believe that this attitude undermines the country’s future prosperity and calls for urgent change.

There’s no doubt that Britain needs engineers; their work provides the essential foundation for major projects like Crossrail that are driving this country’s increasing prosperity. Yet, when engineering graduates take up their roles in industry they are all too often found to be “not fit for purpose”.

This is no reflection on the graduates themselves. The problem lies with the education they’ve received at university, which is invariably focused on general scientific and mathematical topics. Such topics are, of course, an essential part of an engineer’s education but, in that statement, the words “part of” are crucial. These topics alone are not enough; graduates need to understand and have experience of the practical problems and techniques that relate to real world engineering.

Industry and university

I wholeheartedly believe that the solution lies in allowing industrial organisations to become more involved with engineering degree courses. Surely those who will employ the graduates these courses produce should have a say in how they are educated? And surely students, who are now paying up to £40,000 for a four year degree course, deserve to benefit from the insight that can only be provided by engineers who have practical experience of major projects?

While it is, I believe, imperative that we should make this radical change in approach, it would be folly to suggest that it could be implemented overnight. There are, however, positive actions that can be taken very quickly. One of these is for universities to start teaching their students with the design software they will be using when they graduate, rather than clinging to out-dated products and techniques.

The instant objection, of course, is the cost of upgrading to modern software, but this doesn’t have to be an issue.

Engineering for success

Engineering underpins virtually every aspect of our lives. If, therefore, this country is to have a successful and prosperous future, we need our universities to turn out graduates with practical insight and experience that matches the roles they will take on. Achieving this will take time and involve radical change, but there are crucial first steps that can be taken today. We must not delay; for future prosperity, we need skilled engineers and we need them sooner rather than later!

Eplan is an electrical engineering software for the planning and documentation of electrical design projects. 


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