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Industry calls for more engineering PhD students

By Kirk Thurbide

Success in the engineering industry requires the integration of technical, relational and business skills, in addition to academic achievement. That translates into a need for more PhD graduates to sustain innovation in engineering, says Lorraine Whale, the industry keynote speaker at the Schulich School of Engineering’s Engineering Education Summit, held on May 16.

lorraine whale“There is a tremendous demand for more post graduates who are highly skilled,” said Whale, research manager with Shell Canada. “The new engineer is a designer that has creativity constrained by nature, by cost, by concerns for safety, environmental impact, ergonomics, reliability, manufacturability, maintainability—the whole list of ‘ilities’.”

While today’s undergraduate students are technically sound, greater development of leadership skills is a critical need in industry. Areas such as communications, teamwork, valuing diversity and emotional intelligence are no longer beneficial for engineers but essential. A multi-faceted skill set is needed by engineering graduates for industry success.

“There is a requirement for two kinds of engineers in industry today—both hands-on and science-based innovative engineers,” said Whale.

The Schulich School of Engineering currently has about 1,000 full-time graduate students. Based on feedback from industry, faculty and students, a strategic plan will be launched by the school in the fall.

“We are producing the next generation of engineers, not just for here in Calgary but across the country and globally,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering.