Originally posted by: MAWilson
As someone more recently graduated as a mature student, I found that University would have been a lot less useful had I not had college and practical experience before.
Very true. Although actually one of the reasons I didn't do as well as I should have done (to put it mildly) in my degree was because I also had experience before I did it, and I then couldn't see how my experience related to the degree. I made the mistake (being young) of assuming that the degree was at fault, but I discovered when I got into more serious design that what I had misunderstood is that whilst a lot of engineering is simply not at degree level, some key parts very definitely are.
Electrical/Electronic Engineering degrees don't adequately prepare individuals for industry; there is actually a shortfall in designing of any practical system. You learn the concept of differing aspects and components, that's about it.
Yup, that's the idea. It doesn't matter what the subject is, the idea of the degree is to give you the underpinning knowledge, not to train you how to apply it. That's why for every other profession (that I can think of) there is a postgraduate training route so that you can learn how to apply that background information in your chosen field. But in engineering we don't have that (unless you are very lucky). This is a huge problem.
My view on University education at the moment is a bit like Churchill's view on democracy: it's pretty awful but it's much better than the alternatives!
With previous experience, I took the opportunity to utilise the expensive uni equipment to design, build & test various projects but this was on my on free time and this was not the norm.
On the other hand, at my local university they are constantly battling to get students to take project work seriously, it's the students
there that just seem to want to take exams without putting their knowledge to a real test. So I'm not sure how generally true this is.
From my time in industry, I've had reports from design houses where some very smart people have come up with some very daft ideas because there is a gap in astute thinking when they were conceptualising their designs. I'm not having a go at these individuals because, as I've stated I find them quite intelligent and often they tell me they are this close to chartership yet their knowledge gap in terms of plant systems is worrying at time.
But then, everybody comes up with daft ideas at times, whatever their background. What is important is knowing that you need to get many views from many backgrounds on any ideas, because we all miss stuff. But I'm sure you would agree that it is better to have those who came up with some new ideas - daft or otherwise - than those who insist that only what has been done before will work. So I have to come back to my point that - in my experience - the better educated people are, the more genuinly new ideas they come up with. And yes, that may need a group with further skills and experience to knock the rough edges off those ideas.
There needs to be a mixture of persons of Simon's ilk with graduates and seasoned professional engineers in a team for there to be optimum output in my opinion.
What I find disappointing on these forums at least and to a less extent in industry is there does not seem to be a proper appreciation for hard skills learnt.
Having been active on these forums for far too many years I think there has been a very consistent message that both individual engineers and the profession as a whole need a mixture of theoretical and practical skills. Ok, for individuals the balance is going to vary person-by-person, but there always needs to be some mix.
What I find disappointing in UK industry at least and to a less extent on these forums is there does not seem to be a proper appreciation for people who are trying to develop themselves, and the profession, and to move engineering forward - yes, based on our experience, but also based on the possibilities of the future. We are too good in this country at taking any new design and saying the whole thing is rubbish because we can find a tiny (often even irrelevant) flaw which we can laugh at. Makes us feel better, doesn't actually help anyone. Sorry, rant over! ('MA', that rant it wasn't aimed at your posting, just general frustration with the undeserved smugness which the UK engineering profession - at all levels - often seems to give off.)
It's really hard to find the right balance betwwen overenthusiasm for a new idea, which can result in complete rubbish being produced, and over conservatism which can result in nothing being produced. When it works well it is usually because everybody on an engineering team respects everbody else's abilities, and they all learn from each other, which is sort of where we came in.
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMIhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy
"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert