SMT007 Magazine

SMT-July2016

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64 SMT Magazine • July 2016 one. This is a customer that unlike the car-buy- ing or restaurant-going customer, hasn't a clue as to the value of the product they are paying for—an easy mark, easily taken advantage of without the proper checks and balances. In a free market economy with students subject to a system with the same basic educational objec- tives throughout, the value of that education is partially a matter of the competition that the student population will face in the real world. Within the confines of the U.S., for example, if all the competition resides within its borders and learning for earning is not a component of the university system, does it matter? Not much. But, how about on a global competing field that has different ideas about what a student's edu- cation product should be? Where, perhaps, in other countries learning for earning takes on a greater importance in the post-secondary edu- cation world. So, in our global economy it becomes im- portant and appropriate that a college as a sup- plier establishes what the product is that they are selling to their naïve, dependent, uneducated customers. Is it solely a liberal education? This has been the primary objective since the Age of the Enlightenment. A college was to develop the student's mind, creating an open and ana- lytic template for thinking for themselves. Said another way the school was to foster an open mind not tied to the dogma of their parents, their church, their country, or for that matter, their school—developing critical thinking skills that permit problem solving and decision mak- ing in an objective way. Even in the most unbi- ased environment, isn't this a difficult goal to achieve in the antiseptic Ivory Tower? Based on the academic landscape that is on display today, do you think our university sys- tem in the U.S. even meets this objective? And, even if it does, is that enough? Is it time to re- examine the role school plays in grooming the youth to be valuable contributors for the soci- ety they will be entering? What about the learn- ing for earning part? Does the education product produce a piece of paper that will get the stu- dent a good job upon graduation? Surely educa- tion for professions such as medicine, law, and yes, engineering, attempts to overlay biological, legal and physical sciences on top of a liberal education. However, do we continue to leave the specific technical skill set development part of a student's education to industry, or "trade" schools? This historic aspect of a traditional engineering education becomes a convenient truth for college administrators when we real- ize that most engineering faculties don't have a staff with these skills—whether it is running a milling machine or a pick and place machine. Should any engineering faculty consist of even one member that does not have real world ex- perience to complement the skill to teach, and the analytic aptitude to grasp, the physics? The opposite of these resume elements has historically been the case. Why? Arrogance, hubris and self-defense continue to be front and center as we have locked our- selves into what we are good at—academic per- formance, not what would be most valuable to our students, our customers. Not understand- ing, or wanting to understand, the nature of today's high tech electronic product design of assembly is another reason for having tolerated the status quo. Whether the post-secondary educational system will admit it or not, the level of techno- logical understanding to successfully compete in the high tech electronic global manufactur- ing marketplace has blurred the line between the trade skills and the engineering skills nec- essary for an original design provider (ODP) and electronic manufacturing services (EMS) provider. It is a hard transition for most gen- eral managers to substitute the traditional mini- mum wage assembly-line workers with a high priced engineer who can develop the automa- tion to reduce the labor content of a product's THE STEM TRAP " A college was to develop the student's mind, creating an open and analytic template for thinking for themselves. "

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