Pamela Holland Obiomon, Electrical Engineering Department, Prairie View A & M University
Alfred Holland, Senior Manager of R & D, Alcatel, USA
Virginia Tickles, NASA
Shirley Holland-Hunt, NASA
Globalization and technology are the driving factors for the need of an increased number of college students in engineering and science. In order for American companies to compete, more college-age students must become scientists and engineers. Today’s college-age students are called millennial students. The millennial students are characterized by some as self-absorbed, attention-deficit- disordered, digital addicts who disrespect authority and assume that they can control what, when, and how they learn. In order to compete in the global market, universities must ensure that these students attain the intellectual skills and the knowledge to participate in the world economy. Due to globalization, these students must be equipped differently from their counterparts in the previous era.
The world of engineering has changed significantly over the past ten years due to global competition along with fast-moving technology. Global competition has forced suppliers to significantly reduce their time to market. Market windows are much shorter now. A study from IBM showed that in a fast-moving market, being just three months late can cost over 25% of the product’s potential lifetime revenue. This has caused engineers to reduce development cycles. Also, in order to compete in the global market, products need global applications. This has resulted in designing products that meet world requirements. Engineers today are asked to design to meet more requirements in less time.
Impact of Globalization on the Engineer
In order to reduce the design cycle time, companies have begun to outsource the development of new products. The concept of outsourcing development to subject-matter experts has created a change in the way students must prepare for a career in engineering. Due to globalization, the low-level designer can come from any part of the world. Thus today’s engineer has to think in terms of integration. The engineer has to sharpen skills in terms of integrating other designs into his or her design.
Giving Students an Edge in the Highly Competitive Global Market place
The student must continue to master the basic theory and fundamentals of engineering. Additional focus must be dedicated to developing skills to become an effective integrator. The skills needed include 1) the ability to write clear and concise requirements, 2) the ability to manage projects, and 3) the ability to interface with other cultures at a technical level.
Development of a common platform that has different characteristics for different geological markets requires close collaboration between multi-cultural development groups. Clear technical communication across different economic, cultural, and social boundaries reduces development risk. Different areas of the world have various standards that are different or perhaps even non-existent. Due to these differences in cultures and specifications, the transfer of information must be clear. Clear communication avoids misunderstandings.
Project management involves carrying out a project with a mix of people and tasks. The engineer must be able to manage his or her design into designs from different cultures and languages all over the world. Consequently, many issues arise when designing with a team from other cultures. Taking care of these issues is a necessity. As a project manager, the engineer also has to provide some form of framework to plan and to communicate what needs to be done. There are two key components to project management. The first involves the ability to reduce complicated items into simple items. The second is the ability to allocate tasks to different people in the team and, at the same time, see that the tasks are performed in a sensible sequence.
One of the biggest challenges introduced by globalization is in gathering the market requirements and designing to meet them. Even though the market is global, there are requirements that are geographically or culturally specific. In many cases, multiple development teams are deployed in different parts of the world to address these differences. The ability to interface with other cultures at a technical level is critical. The skills necessary for interfacing with development teams include the ability to communicate by phone or internet with available communication tools. An example of this skill is the coordination of a NETmeeting with people of different cultures on a different time frame. This may sound small and simple, but students who have this skill have an advantage in the global market place.
There have been changes in the technical market place. Global competition has reduced development design cycle time and has increased the amount of requirements needed for a system. This has resulted in a need for change in the way in which engineers are trained. In preparing for a career in engineering the student is faced with the same issues as industry; and that is doing more in less time. It is not enough for the engineering student to understand the basic theory. He or she has to be an effective integrator. This requires a change in the way we educate. Students should be given opportunities to develop a global perspective, learn how engineering is practiced in other countries, and improve their potential for career advancement.
http://www.issues.org/issues/18.1/p_van_opstal.html#f_2#f_2, Debroah Van Opstal, The Skills Imperative: Talent and U.S. Competitiveness, Issues in Science and Technology.
http://fie.engrng.pitt.edu/fie99/papers/1319.pdf#search=’industry%20perspectives%20on%20engineering%20education’, The View From the Top: Leaders’ Perspectives on How to Involve Faculty in Improving Engineering Education, Stefani A. Bjorklund and Carol L. Colbeck, Center for the Study of Higher Education, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16801