Industrial Technology Project
The Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE)-accredited industrial technology program I selected to evaluate is the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Department of Industrial Technology (http://itec.louisiana.edu/).
This program offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Industrial Technology, and includes a comprehensive curriculum of 128-130 credit hours of study (including 42 credit hours specifically in industrial technology).
Participants in this program are exposed to other areas of study in their junior and senior years, including communication, business law and management. The purpose of these additional courses is to provide the student with necessary skills for immediate employment upon completion of the program. The types of jobs graduates can expect are typically in the manufacturing, petroleum, food and other service industries. I found the plan of study to be very straightforward, with only 12-15 hours available for program-specific electives.
The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science ) offers several engineering degree options; however, I selected to evaluate the Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering ).
In this program, there are two plans of study – a standard curriculum and an advanced “scholar” curriculum (called the Rodman Scholar Program).
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For the purpose of this project, I chose to review the standard curriculum.
Much like the BS in Industrial Technology offered by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, this program requires a minimum of 128 credit hours for program completion; however, whereas the former provides a somewhat rigid curriculum, the BS in Systems Engineering curriculum from the University of Virginia is more flexible with nine hours of non-restricted electives, nine hours of application (or specific area of emphasis) electives and six hours of technical electives. The purpose of this flexibility is to allow the student to pursue a more specific area of study within the degree field. Upon completion of the program, students will have completed approximately forty-three credit hours of degree-specific courses.
A major difference in the Systems Engineering program is the capstone design project, which spans the fall and spring of the student’s fourth year. This project pairs a small team of students (under the direction of a faculty advisor) with a client from the public or private sector. Teams must take the knowledge and methodology they acquired in the classroom and apply it to resolve a “real-world” problem.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration ), which is a broad-based program of study that includes a core curriculum (not including general studies) of approximately 51 credit hours in the areas of business, accounting, economics, marketing, finance, management and communication. An additional 21 credit hours (taken in the third and fourth year) is designed to allow the student to choose a more specific area of study from the Departments of Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing, or from the School of Accountancy. A difference in this program is the inclusion of 45-68 credit hours (almost one-half of the BS in Business Administration program) of electives or Essential Studies courses which are designed to “familiarize students with the representative issues in an area and give them a foundation for understanding the perspective that area offers.” )
This approach differs from the other two programs in that no specific general education courses are assigned; rather, students have many more options as to what they can take to fulfill the requirement. Thus, the overall degree program on the one hand seems very fluid, but on the other hand allows the student to tailor the program to meet his or her interests and career designs.
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The programs I evaluated were similar in their overall objectives and outcomes. Each identifies the necessity of preparing the student with technical skills and methods which can be successfully applied to industry. Also, each program offers courses in management, communication and problem-solving, which are essential components in developing individuals to work in dynamic organizations where people and technology perform complex operations.
As stated earlier, a primary difference in the programs I evaluated is that the BS in Industrial Technology from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette appears to have a more rigid, set curriculum in terms of the courses one must complete to earn this degree. This is not necessarily a bad thing in that a person with a BS in Industrial technology degree can presumably enter the workforce with the ability speak the language of (for example) an engineer, but also relate to other aspects of the organization. In other words, the industrial technology curriculum offers enough of a diversity of actual coursework to equip the graduate with an adequate overview of industrial operations. This is something the other programs I reviewed did not necessarily address in their required curriculum. Furthermore, the program’s accreditation from the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering assures prospective students and potential employers that the program has successfully completed a rigorous review of all aspects of the program, its curriculum and faculty qualifications above and beyond regional accreditation (i.e., the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).
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Employees with a degree in industrial technology fulfill a niche between management, engineers/technicians and front-line employees because of the interdisciplinary nature of the degree – they are not bound by the narrow spectrum of a specific field. I would venture to speculate that this course of study, which enables individuals to see the “big picture” and yet also be familiar with the details, would be very appealing to industry leaders.
The creation of a successful and sustainable industrial technology degree program begins with the college’s willingness to listen to the needs of industry. If the overall purpose for offering a degree in industrial technology is to prepare the graduate for a career in the field, then the college must solicit input from industry partners. This allows graduates to not only be employable, but also to contribute ideas, improvements and solve problems in an effective and efficient manner. It is also important for the college to hire faculty who maintain a close relationship with local industries and industry-specific associations that will allow faculty to keep up with current trends, provide potential employment opportunity to new graduates and discover new ways to bridge the gap between academia and industry. A well-designed industrial technology program will combine these elements.