The labour market challenges facing engineering-degree holders in Ontario are well-known and top of mind for many stakeholders. Experiential learning (co-op programs, internships, and work placements) are correctly viewed as bridging the theoretical and technical knowledge that students gain in the classroom with hands-on experience needed to enter the workforce.
As OSPE identified in its recent submission to the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy Expert Panel, the benefits of participating in a co-op program are real and many for both students and their employers. The 2013 National Graduate Survey found that bachelor’s degree-holders who completed a co-op program were – in comparison to their non-co-op counterparts – more likely to report being employed in a job related to their education with higher earnings.
Siemens Canada understands these challenges, but also recognizes the importance of investing in the current and future generations of engineers and engineering technologists through Siemens Canada’s Engineering and Technology Academy (SCETA).
With over 35 years of experience in professional engineering and technical operations executive management, the Academy is led by Dr. Tom Murad, Ph.D., P.Eng., FEC, SM.IEEE, whose passion for engineering and education is unmistakable and infectious. The Academy provides students and Siemens’ engineers with the educational and professional development opportunities required to build successful engineering careers.
“At Siemens Canada, we believe that the main contributor to innovation is our people,” Dr. Murad explains. “The spirit of innovation was embedded in Siemens from day one. This spirit has made Siemens a global leader.”
In partnership with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), and with funding from the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada, the Dual Education Program is an innovative, pilot program that provides engineering and engineering technology students with the opportunity to ‘earn as they learn.’
Students participate in the program during their last two years of study, working as Siemens Canada employees for two four-month sessions, earning a full-time salary, with the additional advantage of having their last two years of tuition paid by Siemens. Upon graduation, select students are offered full-time employment in one of Siemens Canada’s nine divisions.
Dr. Murad underscores that the culture of education is not unique to Siemens Canada, but a hallmark of Siemens and the value it places on investing in its employees around the world through training and talent development.
McMaster University, Mohawk College, the University of Waterloo, the University of Alberta, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) currently participate in the Academy.
This enhanced skills training and career-start program provides a mix of theory and practical experience that complements the post-secondary curriculum students receive. “What we are looking for are students with an ability to innovate and contribute to both Siemens and the world,” Dr. Murad states.
When asked how he feels about the importance of work integrated learning opportunities for students, Dr. Murad is resolute. “Industry is behind in recognizing the importance of building its resources and in taking action… it’s too late to debate the importance of co-ops. Instead, there needs to be a focus on the quality of co-op programs that students participate in.
We [industry] have a responsibility towards the next generation. If we don’t prepare them to be good engineers, we won’t have skilled people running our industries, hospitals, etc.”
As a third generation engineer, Dr. Murad says he was born to be one. He advises engineering students to never give up, overcome challenges, think outside the box, and always be hungry for knowledge. “Knowledge is the best fortune anyone can have.”
He adds that “being an engineer requires a special skillset – logic, innovation, and problem-solving. To me, it’s a way of life and a way of thinking. You also need to have that fire inside you – to contribute to the field.”
Want to hear students’ experiences in the Academy? Click here.
Stay tuned for an extended article on the Dual Education Program in the upcoming September issue of OSPE’s The Voice magazine.