Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Siemens to Manufacture a Brighter Workforce 

Even with the renewed zeal that government has expressed for the manufacturing industry, preparing the workforce continues to be a pressing concern, with academics and industry professionals both expressing concerns over the readiness of engineering graduates searching for their first job.

Less than a month after its launch of its training initiative for veterans, Siemens has announced an additional training program designed to help students throughout the globe become better prepared to meet their future employers’ needs.

We recently sat down with Bill Boswell and Brian Peterson of Siemens PLM Software to discuss the larger industry issues at hand, and how initiatives such as these could answer a nationwide call for better prepared engineering talent.

According to Boswell, the primary concern that drove the decision to launch this program, called “Learning Advantage” was the consistency of educators’ complaints when discussing stem education today: as the tools of the trade become more sophisticated, there just isn’t enough time to cover it all.

“I get out and talk to a lot of professors at a lot of schools, and the common thing that I hear over and over is that there’s just not enough time to teach all the technical features and power-user capabilities of these software packages that can do so much today,” said Boswell.

And while universities may be churning out bright and well-educated engineers, what suffers, according to Boswell, is the understanding of industry tools that make it possible to actually do one’s job within the context of a manufacturing company.

“We’ve heard from the global academic community that engineering classroom and lab time is focused on software training in basic concepts, leaving little time for advanced instruction,” said Boswell.

And when students transition into the workforce, this creates a problem.

“Often times with companies that use our products, they’ve done their initial training to get our software into their production a while back,” explained Petersen. And this means that there’s an awkward gap to fill to bring recent grads up to speed with the rest of the team, since the initial training opportunity has already passed new employees by. “It’s always a challenge to time getting these students up to speed on these products.”

Because companies want new hires up to speed on these tools on day one, Siemens realized it was only logical to help introduce software training into academia as well.

Siemens plans to provide academic communities around the globe with online access to their library of product lifecycle management software training courses. The goal is to allow students to take advantage training in Siemens’ NX software, Teamcenter portfolio and Tecnomatix portfolio alongside their current coursework, to give students the added experience they need transition into the workforce.

Since offering is the same as what’s currently used in manufacturing companies across the industry to train their employees, it was quickly piloted at a number of schools, including Purdue University, where it was quickly met with praise among professors like Nate Hartman.

“The projects we ask students to perform in NX and Teamcenter require them to dig a bit deeper than the concepts we demonstrate to them. So Learning Advantage helps us supplement what we demonstrate to the students in class and also helps us keep our faculty’s skills sharp,” said Hartman, assistant department head and associate professor, Department of Computer Graphics, Purdue University.

Now, individual subscriptions 1,000 self-paced course library is being made available to technical high-schools, colleges and universities. For the cost of a little less than most engineering textbooks ($96, to be exact) students have one-year access to the training portal, which can be accessed at any time and progresses at the student’s chosen pace.

Some educators will likely integrate the program into their classes and labs, building assignments and projects around software training, but for those who want to brush up on their PLM tools on the side, Learning Advantage is purchased on an individual basis, which means that even students who aren’t learning about Siemens PLM tools in the classroom can learn what they need to know through independent study with the help of self-assessment tools and progress trackers.

But this isn’t a one-stop solution for industry preparedness. Boswell noted that what he would most like to see would be a handshake between industry and academia. There, companies that are taking on students for internships could further develop a student’s training while also communicating to the universities and community colleges that they recruit what sorts of skill gaps exist.

But as for now, this does open a strategic door for curious young minds. Whereas before they may have been limited by their school’s curriculum or not being able to afford a stand-alone training course, many students now have the chance to do so.

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