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Are Our Local Universities Producing Poor Quality Engineers

I stumbled upon this article from the Star Online Newspaper. It covers the frustration of an employer towards the fresh chemical engineering graduates released from local universities. This is a very interesting fact that we should seriously address. Our young engineers must be equipped with soft skills and able to deliver when they are expected to do so... Check out the article and tell me what do you think about it...

Engineers of Poor Quality

I AM a manager in a chemical manufacturing firm in Malaysia. We often have vacancies for mechanical and chemical engineers, and occasionally electrical engineers. We do take in fresh graduates to train and develop for the future of our company.

In recent years, I have noticed a marked reduction in the quality of the engineering graduates. I would like to suggest that our local universities work with professional bodies such as Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) and Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) to address the weaknesses.

Some of the courses should be tailored to suit industrial requirements. BEM and IEM would be in the right position to work with the many universities we have here. Alternatively, they could come up with modules to be included in the engineering curriculum at our local universities.

With the advent of computers and simulation packages, another new problem is that fresh engineers seem at a loss to conduct design calculations from basic principles. They are over reliant on such computer packages.

When they start work, they are at a loss to do design work because some companies may not have such computer packages. Hence, even basic engineering calculations to determine the optimum pipe sizing and pump selection are beyond them.

These are basic engineering calculations, and without the necessary skills, we are left with design works that are sub-optimal, resulting in high operating costs for the users.

Alternatively, everyone would be running to consultants to get even the most basic of engineering work done for them.

In many of the plants I have been to, there is much that could be done to improve efficiency by just going back to good basic engineering practice. And in some cases, it’s just using good common sense.

I think there is a need to teach and emphasise on such basics. We should ensure that our young engineers are provided with good foundation knowledge for the future of our country.

After all, it is upon solid foundations that skyscrapers are built.

In this aspect, I must take my hat off to University Technology Petronas (UTP), which has formed an Industry Advisory Panel (IAP), and invites professionals from the industry to review their curriculum and suggest areas for improvement. UTP is serious about this and has implemented many of the suggestions introduced by its IAP.

UTP also has an adjunct lectures series where professionals are called in to give lectures to the undergraduates. I think these are good initiatives that other universities would do well to emulate.

Lahat, Perak.

Adopted from the StarOnline Thursday April 17, 2008

My two cents:

From my observations, a lot of newly graduated engineers are lacking of the confidence they are supposed to possess. Engineers come and go from various work places. Most of them resigned because they cannot perform, cannot cope or cannot stand working. They are not mentally tough. Two years plus ago, a group of engineers including me was scolded badly by our big boss. The next day, one of us resigned. He simply said that he could not work in that kind of environment. He cannot work under immense pressure from the superiors.

However, some of the newly graduated engineers are well performing. I admit that. I am so impressed with a few colleagues of mine who performed very excellent as an engineer. They adapt and communicate very well. They effectively coordinate and manage project and work.

As for myself, last year, I supervised a practical student. I told him that we are going to communicate in English all the time. He was not allowed to converse in other language or our mother tongue language. The reason was for him to practice conversing and communicating in English fluently. We did talked and discussed in English. I think he was a good student and perform all the exercises and assignments given to him by me. I bet he'll become a good reliable engineer someday.

Being a Malay working in a Chinese company seems quite challenging. However, I have no fear and problem with that. Although I can't speak or understand when they converse in Mandarin, I ensure myself conversing in English with all of them. On a daily basis, I will attend a meeting with a group of Chinese executives, engineers, chemist and managers and I'm the only Malay in the group. When they talked to me in Malay language, I replied in English. I don't give a damn. Some suppliers also acknowledge this. They were impressed on me because I still converse in English and forced them to talk the same language with me.

Well, those discussed above are mostly related to the soft skills. When it comes to the technical skills, as engineers we must show what we are capable to do. We must be able to do all those basic calculations and engineering work. Most of the time, we will have to learn more simply because we have not been exposed to those new areas or knowledges while at the university. We have to learn and show that we can pick up what ever projects or tasks assigned to us. My previous boss will always encourage me to meet up with suppliers because they are the expert in their field. We can call and meet up with them, discuss and increase our technical knowledge. Frankly, I learned a lot from my suppliers. I think it is not to harsh if I say, we utilized and used them for our sake.

OK, so bottom line, new engineers or present engineers... we need to work out on our soft and technical skills. Do not disappoint our boss although sometimes you might hate him... After all, we must show that we are worth what we are being paid. At the end of the day, if we perform, we'll get a good increment and bonus!!!

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posted by Kipas Repair JB @ 7:57 PM,


At Thursday, April 17, 2008, Blogger Chris @ Flipping A Dollar said...

This is why I love my school, Drexel University, known for it's co-op program. Right now, I'm on my 3rd co-op. I have gotten a taste of what it's like to work and have learned a lot of thie little ins and outs that a fresh college grad won't have. I had a boss who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (ivy league school) with a PhD in ChemE, but he said that 6 months of work with a company would have been much more valuable than all of the lab work he had under his belt. I'm not sure if this work will make me work better with engineering basics, but at least I'll be accustomed to how things work and flow in a plant.

At Wednesday, August 19, 2009, Anonymous Rådgivende ingeniør said...

Sometimes its not the school, it depends on the student on how he spend his time during his study and sometimes lacking knowledge in one field is because they are happy go lucky students. So we can't blame universities if there's a weak graduate like that.


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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