Engineering and Business: Collaboration in Education

Brooks G 3047_head_shotThis post from Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., president of Trine University and member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce board of directors, originally appeared in Inside INdiana Business.

The rapidly changing economic environment illustrates the importance of universities to provide both engineering and business programs with innovative curriculum. Such programs are essential because these students will be responsible for engineering, technology and business initiatives in the 21st century.

With that in mind, Trine University has created the College of Engineering and Business to focus on fast-changing economic needs while harnessing opportunities that exist and providing broader educational options.

It is imperative universities respond to circumstances within the contemporary climate of education. More high school graduates are entering college with college credits already earned, requiring universities to develop nontraditional options. While this can reduce student debt, we think universities should also strive to offer creative and unique curriculum to provide an even broader education. At Trine, students bringing credits can earn a bachelor degree in just three years, or opt to earn a bachelor degree and a master degree in four years in the 3 + 1 program.

Trine created three-year bachelor programs and went a step further to offer a one-year master’s degree program for both engineering and business students who choose to enter the 3 + 1 program. These students may earn a bachelor degree in any engineering major in three years and earn a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM) in one year. Business concepts are the nucleus of the MSEM curriculum.

In comparison, students may earn a bachelor degree in any business major in three years and a Master of Business Administration in one year. The MBA curriculum includes engineering fundamentals. Both programs promote the cross-education model of preparing business and engineering students to collaborate and understand each other’s responsibilities for the success of the companies they serve.

Employers tell us there is a gap in the educations of engineering and business students entering the workforce. By responding to this concern, universities can better prepare their students for successful careers.

Engineers are excellent at developing devices and creating technology to advance their employers’ products and/or services, but often they are not equally adept at understanding business processes. Changes in the economic environment demand engineers possess business skills too. Engineering professionals of tomorrow must be self-sufficient business units, regardless of their position. The blending of engineering and business studies should foster this vision.

Traditionally, universities teach engineering knowledge and skills around manufacturing, technology support and product design. In Trine’s College of Engineering and Business, we teach these methods with the additional curriculum to build entrepreneurial skills crucial to develop economically relevant opportunities for business and technology. For example, engineering students of all disciplines can minor in business, preparing them for roles in engineering management, cost accounting, resource acquisition and leveraging, and financial risk management.

Similarly, business students must understand how engineering operations work and how successful engineering and technology companies operate. The curriculum for business students is enhanced by engineering-based courses on innovation, technology planning, development processes and patents. They must also understand the engineers’ perspective along with their problem-solving process and technical limitations they encounter. Businesses cannot sell goods engineers cannot produce and engineers should not produce goods businesses cannot sell.

Universities with a business school model that embraces the entrepreneurial spirit can promote initiatives and experiences to benefit business and engineering students. In Trine’s case, the Rhoads Center for Entrepreneurship along with Innovation One, an innovative service delivery framework within Trine, give business and engineering students the ability to work and learn together. Students team in a collaborative, hands-on environment to develop ideas and concepts along with business plans and more through private-sector projects secured by Innovation One.

Forging relationships between higher education and business and industry benefits students and employers. Such partnerships pave the way for internships, cooperative education and full-time employment. These opportunities enhance experiential learning, raise awareness of employers’ needs and expectations, and expand employment options for graduates.

Keeping pace with today’s fast-moving technologies and economy is the primary motivator in combining engineering and business studies. It is the educator’s responsibility to use a holistic approach to prepare students to be career-ready so they can make an immediate impact.

A Day to Remember in Evansville

evilleArmed with my Starbuck’s latte, I stepped out into the cold. It was mid-January and I was headed to Evansville to conduct interviews for our education/workforce development issue of BizVoice® magazine.

I started the day around 7 a.m. and didn’t pull into my driveway until shortly after 7 p.m. that evening. You know what? It was worth it. In fact, it was unforgettable.

First up: Ivy Tech’s College Connection Coach initiative. The program places Ivy Tech employees in high schools to promote a culture of college attainment and to provide career counseling and advisement. Launched last fall, it stresses collaboration with guidance counselors, administrators and teachers.

Carrie Feltis, a College Connection Coach in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, spends two days a week at both Central and Harrison High Schools. While visiting Central, I watched her interact with a senior named Lindsey, with whom she’s worked closely. What a rapport! They shared laughs – lots of them – and proudly conveyed Lindsey’s many accomplishments. Among them: She’ll be the first member of her family to graduate from high school.

Next was a visit to Ivy Tech Community College-Southwest/Wabash Valley Region hosted by chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel, a former state legislator and Evansville mayor. He passionately expressed the importance of the program and its potential impact in leading students down a path that includes postsecondary education.

Then it was time to dive into my next story. It was time to step into Signature School.

Signature, the state’s first charter school, is nationally recognized for its challenging curriculum and unique culture. Located in downtown Evansville, its close proximity to libraries, the YMCA, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and more provides the backdrop for learning beyond the doors of Signature’s two buildings.

Executive Director Jean Hitchcock beamed as we stepped into dynamic classrooms and met the people who create Signature’s success. The teachers are passionate. The students are spirited. It’s a tight-knit team that lives by the Signature Way.

If there’s one word to sum up my impressions of Signature, it’s this: brilliant.

Brilliant minds. Brilliant opportunities. That’s Signature.

Inaugural Career Ready Season to Kick Off in April

careerreadyIndiana’s Career Ready campaign (formerly KnowHow2GOIndiana) takes place each April through July, with real-world advice and practical experiences to help students prepare for their future careers. Efforts will focus on career sectors that are projected to be in high demand for Indiana’s economy (advanced manufacturing; agriculture, agribusiness and food; healthcare and life sciences; information technology and clean energy technology; and logistics).

Beginning with the official statewide kick-off week (April 20-24), Career Ready aims to:

  • Educate Hoosier students about the range of career options in Indiana;
  • Expose Hoosier students of all ages to meaningful work-and-learn experiences;
  • Equip Hoosier students with the education and skills required to succeed in their careers and meet Indiana’s economic needs.

Get involved
Career Day (April 24) is an opportunity to get in the schools in your region and share your experience. Whether you present about your job, the sector you work in or employability skills, students need to hear directly from employers.

Complete this short, five-question survey by Friday, March 13 to tell the Commission for Higher Education about your current efforts and how you’d like to partner with schools in your region. Please note that survey information may be shared with your local school districts.

Career Ready is an initiative of Learn More Indiana, led by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Visit the web site at CareerReadyIndiana.org.

Postsecondary Pathways Events Draw Attention to Regional Skill Needs

16012978Educators, employers and community members gathered at the Ivy Tech Muncie campus last week to discuss career and training opportunities in manufacturing and construction at the Postsecondary Pathways event, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and co-hosted by the Indiana Youth Institute, CELL, Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Chamber.

Rick Barnett, VP Engineering at Indiana Marujun, LLC, summed up the need for the convening in the first panel discussion:

“Students are starting to see the value of manufacturing and seeing it as a viable career opportunity,” said Barnett. “But we’re still not where we need to be.”

Barnett went on to add that Indiana Marujun has not been fully staffed in the maintenance department as long as he can remember. Current employees are putting in great amounts of overtime to keep up with demand.

Drew Dubois with DuPont Pioneer also said they struggle to find maintenance workers, as well as computer and technical skills. He said their biggest challenge, however, is finding employees with soft skills (accountability, creativity and passion).

Indiana Marujun recently developed an apprenticeship program to develop their future talent. The U.S. Department of Labor runs Registered Apprenticeship, a system that provides the opportunity for workers seeking high-skilled, high-paying jobs and for employers seeking to build a qualified workforce. Each state has an apprenticeship office; for more information, visit the web site.

Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann gave the opening keynote, encouraging employers to offer more work-and-learn opportunities, such as internships, and for educators to share multiple “Plan A’s” with their students. Included in the event was a tour of Magna Powertrain, a supplier for the global automotive industry with focus in powertrain design, development, testing and manufacturing, that employs hundreds of associates at two locations in Muncie.

Other Postsecondary Pathways events were held in Lafayette, Odon and Batesville. Additional events are planned for the fall. Visit the Indiana Youth Institute’s web site to find dates and registration information for these future opportunities.

Learn more about the participating businesses at the Region 6 Postsecondary Pathways event:

IndianaSkills.com aims to bridge the gap between the types of training and credentials people are pursuing in Indiana and the skills being requested by our state’s employers. The site provides information on employer demand for specific jobs, skills and certifications compared to the supply of graduates completing short-term training (two years or less beyond high school) related to these jobs, skills and certifications.

State Superintendent Needs to be Appointed, On Same Page with Governor

It’s about good public policy. It’s about what’s best for students and teachers.

For nearly 30 years, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has supported having the state superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position. We did this when Republicans and Democrats controlled the governor’s office. And we have been far from alone.

In years past, the state Democratic and Republican parties have included it in their platforms. And in 2004, both Gov. Joe Kernan and challenger Mitch Daniels had it among their campaign proposals.

It may be surprising to some, but the Indiana State Teachers Association used to support having an appointed superintendent. However, the group changed its tune once its 2012 endorsed candidate, Glenda Ritz, was elected.

The Indiana Chamber has remained consistent with its position and believes politics should be put aside.

Having an appointed superintendent came oh so close to happening in the late 1980s during Gov. Robert Orr’s administration – passing the House and falling only one vote short in the Senate. Since then it’s mainly been a parade of governors and superintendents not on the same page on major education policy (regardless of which party held either office). That situation doesn’t serve the state, students, parents or teachers well.

Our governor campaigns on education issues and sets an education agenda. In order to be held accountable for that, he needs to be able to appoint the superintendent of his choosing. That way, we can be assured there is alignment with respect to education policy. Hoosiers can then hold the governor truly responsible for education and factor that into his performance assessment come election time.

Appointing a superintendent also means the person chosen comes from a broader pool of qualified candidates. And the selection should then be based on the person’s education and leadership merits, not political backing.

Many have known for a long time that the current system isn’t conducive to getting things done. That’s only been exacerbated the last two years with the divergent philosophical opinions of Gov. Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Too often this has resulted in the State Board of Education at a crossroads, if not a standstill. That’s entirely unacceptable.

What’s more, the superintendent, as head of the state Department of Education, should be treated like every other agency leader. We don’t elect the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, commissioner of the Department of Revenue and so forth. All of those officials are appointed at the discretion of the governor. The Department of Education should be the same.

Indiana is already behind the times – and more than 35 other states – in acknowledging that an appointed superintendent serves citizens best. Our preference would be that realization happen sooner rather than later. We recognize the political sensitivities and pressures currently in play – though we don’t agree with bowing to them – and want to see serious discussion and action taken on the issue this legislative session.

Non-Union Teacher Contract Bargaining Requires Flexibility

Finding, retaining and empowering great teachers must be a top priority for Indiana schools. However, the state’s teacher bargaining law ties the hands of administrators and forces the union-bargained contract and all its controls on every teacher in a district, whether or not they choose to even join the union.

Senate Bill 302, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), would allow school districts to negotiate employment contracts directly with individual teachers or groups of teachers that choose not to join their union, instead of being forced to negotiate exclusively within the bargaining agreement and impose those same contract provisions on all teachers.

Today, schools and districts cannot recruit superb educators and those with specific skills needed (e.g. STEM, foreign languages, etc.) and cannot be offered higher pay or other incentives. And in districts with teacher shortages, there is no room to negotiate a contract to hire a teacher that might be needed to fill an important gap. There is no flexibility – it’s the union’s contract or nothing, even in a right-to-work state like Indiana.

Teachers are professionals and should be treated like it. They have the right to be a union member and bargain collectively should they so choose, but they also should have the right to negotiate their own contracts. If we want better teachers in this state, we need to encourage and support excellence.

The bill would free teachers from a longstanding stranglehold on contracts, allow for excellence to be rewarded and recruited, and stop treating all teachers like interchangeable parts under the same contract terms regardless of skills, performance or a school’s needs.

Please take a moment to send a message to your state senator and the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee to ask for support of Senate Bill 302 to provide for more flexibility for school districts and teachers.

Promise Initiative is Indeed Promising

I went to Wabash (the city, not the college) recently. At one point (1985-88), I was in Wabash full time as sports editor of the local newspaper. Among the highlights during that time: a still celebrated 1986 state baseball championship.

But I digress. The reason for this visit to Wabash was for an upcoming BizVoice magazine story on the Wabash County Promise. And if young, energetic leaders have their way — and there is no reason to doubt them — the program to drive postsecondary educational attainment will one day be the Indiana Promise.

The Promise begins with opening 529 college savings accounts for young students (kindergarten through third grade). It continues with touch points that engage students and parents. It includes a Walk Into My Future day that brings thousands of young people to a college campus.

The initial success is laudable. The local leaders I spoke with know they must continue the work.  One, Parker Beauchamp, told me about speaking on campus (with the words really applying to the entire program): “It was about pumping those kids up, having them be part of something positive and letting them have a say in their future.”

The full story will be the in March-April BizVoice, which will include more articles on business-education connections and the possibilities that emerge through strong partnerships.

 

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

Pence’s Education Agenda to Take Center Stage — Should Include More Investment in Preschool

The Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee recently voted to support Governor Pence’s education agenda in principle. The agenda represents an important first step in increasing the focus in Indiana’s K-12 education system to our state’s young people and allowing them to prosper through high-performing teachers and schools.

The list below represents the Governor’s education goals:

  • Increase the base funding per pupil
  • Build on the successful performance funding in the last budget
  • Support efforts by the Commission for Higher Education to expand the performance-based model of funding for universities
  • Allow schools to choose to become “Freedom to Teach Schools – whereby they can improve educational performance by providing more flexibility to superintendents, principals and teachers by easing laws, policies and regulations through waivers granted by the State Board of Education
  • Adjust funding for public charter schools that will allow more communities to offer more choices for families and their kids, and attract more investment for education innovation in Indiana
  • Improve Indiana’s school choice program by lifting the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers and support efforts to raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program
  • Work with legislators to act on the State Board of Education’s recommendations to develop a new, strategic approach to turning around failing schools
  • Increase the amount of money, public and private, to give students more career and technical education opportunities
  • Change how the state funds career and technical education courses, basing funding on performance and relevance instead of enrollment alone
  • Give the State Board of Education authority to elect its own chair

The last bullet item would be a good step if the longstanding Chamber priority of making the state superintendent an appointed position is not enacted. There needs to be, at a minimum, some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The one area where the Indiana Chamber differs with the Governor’s education agenda is on preschool; he is seeking $10 million a year in this next budget to fund pre-K scholarships for the five pre-K pilot counties.

The Chamber believes the pilot program is not adequate. Indiana has large numbers of children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. This ultimately impacts all Hoosier students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

The state needs to provide robust funding that will help all low-income parents access education–based preschool programs. Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes sense, like in statewide preschool.