The Future of Engineering Education
Our working world is rapidly changing and graduate programmes are changing also. We discover how new recruits are learning in a new way and what we as qualified professionals must do to keep up.
Giving us an insight into today’s university programs are Una Beagon, Head of Civil Engineering at the Technological University in Dublin and Maria Kyne Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in the Technical University of the Shannon.
Listen below or on your podcast player!
Topics we discussed include
02:07 How teaching engineering has changed 06:36 How engineering courses are assessed internationally and kept up-to-date
11:47 Why working closer with industry is developing critical thinking skills
16:21 Keeping up to date with technological advances.
19:09 Lifetime learning and problem-based learning.
29:44 The importance of lifelong learning.
35:03 What is the general attitude of employers to lifelong learning?
37:31 What to be afraid of in engineering.
Dr Una Beagon is Head of Civil Engineering at TU Dublin and a Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers. Her research centres around using pedagogical initiatives to improve professional skills in engineering students. Her work has won several awards including a Teaching Fellowship, The Engineers Ireland Excellence Award, The SEFI Francesco Maffioli Award, the Le Chéile Gradam and A Teaching Hero Award from the National Forum.
Dr Maria Kyne has 30 years of experience including being a Sydney Accord and Dublin Accord review member for the International Engineering Alliance for reviews of Engineering Professional Body organisations in the UK, Canada and Pakistan. Today she is Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in TUS.
Her research interests are in the area of Engineering Education Quality Assurance. Her publications investigate the possibilities of combining or aligning the current programmatic review and accreditation processes for engineering education.
Links Una mentioned include:
Profess 12 - https://www.tudublin.ie/research/discover-our-research/profess12/about/
TrainEng-PDP - https://iiw.kuleuven.be/english/trainengpdp
A-Step 2030 - https://www.astep2030.eu/en
Engineer SDG - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03043797.2022.2033955
Looking for ways to explore or advance a career in the field of engineering? Visit Engineers Ireland to learn more about the many programs and resources on offer. https://www.engineersireland.ie/
"Teaching engineering has changed considerably in the last 20 years. There was a time when the lecturer went up on the podium, gave the lecture and the students took what they could from it. Today, the lecturer becomes more of a facilitator of knowledge, skills and competencies. They have gone from being lecture-driven to more lab lectures, where a lot of the lectures are part of laboratory experiments and classes, especially in mechanical or electrical engineering areas. " Maria Kyne - TUS
“There's a lot of talk about AI generated papers being handed in and some lecturers have seen it. Their view is that it looks wrong as they know the students' work from being with them in class or elsewhere. But there have been dramatic changes to assessment methodologies in the last year or so. So, there will be either more ORS or more individually assigned projects where each student would have a slightly different problem to analyze.” Maria Kyne – TUS
“Programs are accredited by relevant professional bodies, including engineering and construction programs. These programs are assessed by the International Engineering Alliance, where we have international accords, such as the Washington Accord for Level 8 engineering programs, the Sydney Accord for Level 7 engineering programs, and the Dublin Accord for Level 6 engineering programs. Each country that is part of these signatory agreements is assessed, and their Level 8 degrees are compared to ours. Our Level 8 degrees, which are honours degrees, are on par with what is taught in Australia, America, Canada, and throughout the world for anyone who is part of these international engineering agreements. Most countries in the world have signed up to the Sydney Accord and the Washington Accord over the last 20-25 years, providing to some extent a harmonisation of engineering degrees and the standards of graduate attributes." Maria Kyne – TUS
For your convenience, here is a 90% accurate AI transcription of the episode.
Dusty Rhodes 0:01
Right now on Amplified, the Engineers Journal podcast, we're about to get into the challenges and opportunities in educating engineers for a rapidly changing world.
Una Beagon 0:11
Any type of person can make a good engineer, that's the first thing I would say.
Maria Kyne 0:17
There's something for everybody. Even if you end up in the wrong discipline of engineering, it's so easy to switch to another discipline. If somebody is interested in a particular area of engineering, they're more likely to succeed. Motivation beats knowledge any day,
Una Beagon 0:32
I think that idea of just being a problem solver, then you can fix everything else, we will give you the skills to deal with the rest of it.
Dusty Rhodes 0:48
Hi, there, my name is Dusty Rhodes, and you're welcome to Amplify, the Engineers Journal podcast. One of the amazing things about engineering is that things are constantly changing. And for many engineers, it's a part of their psyche, to keep up with the changing times. But how are things changing? And what is it that fresh graduates coming into the business have been learning? Or indeed, how have they been learning? And how can we as qualified and experienced professionals, keep up? To chat about this today, we have two hands on leaders in the field. Firstly, we have Una Beagon Head of Civil Engineering at the Technological University in Dublin. Una has a lot of career experience working as a consulting engineer in Ireland and abroad. Today to you she's focused on how teaching techniques can improve professional skills. Una, you're very welcome. Thanks very much. Also with us is Maria Kyne, who after working as a civil engineer for over 30 years, is currently Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment in the Technical University of the Shannon. Maria, thanks for joining us.
Maria Kyne 1:54
Thank you dusty.
Dusty Rhodes 1:55
Just before we get into the academic side of things, you both have a huge amount of real world engineering experience. And perhaps you can give us a quick synopsis of your career before you ended up into you Dublin.
Una Beagon 2:07
Sure, yeah. I guess I was quite lucky. I knew from when I was around 14 years old, I think that I wanted to be an engineer. So in that sense, I was very committed. And I did my degree in civil engineering and worked as a consultant for 20 years in Belfast and then London and then back in Dublin. So I've had a great range of experience worked on some fabulous projects with great teams over the last 20 years or so.
Dusty Rhodes 2:34
And tell me the story of why you were dragged back into university life.
Una Beagon 2:40
Yeah, that's a funny one. I'm not sure if Maria's story is the same but I loved being a consultant. I never saw academia in my life plan and then the recession hit and of course everyone gets nervous in the recession. And I had been doing some part time lecturing in the evenings while I was working and I just really enjoyed it I got a great sense of job satisfaction from it. So when a job came up, I applied for it and was very happy to come in as a as an assistant lecturer originally entity Dublin. So that was the crux I was about 10 years ago.
Dusty Rhodes 3:15
And Maria, yourself before to you have the shovel.
Maria Kyne 3:19
And I was my professional experience began as a civil engineering consists in a civil engineering consultancy in the UK before joining NUI G as a civil engineering lecturer. So I then moved on to Limerick and became a lecturer in project management and then back to to where I started as a lecturer, and then became head of department and finally dean of faculty.
Dusty Rhodes 3:45
Well, listen, tell me in universities today, would you say that the process of teaching has changed a lot in the last 20 years?
Maria Kyne 3:53
Yes, I think the teaching has changed considerably in the last 20 years. And in many ways, I suppose the more significant is that there was a time when the lecturer went up on the podium and gave the lecture and the students took what they could from it. Nowadays, the lecturers see themselves as facilitators of learning, where they're helping students to absorb the knowledge and this and so a lot of the information that used to be transmitted by lecturers previously, is sent out before the lectures and they have that available to them up in virtual learning environments, and such as Moodle, or Blackboard. And the students have the information it's absorbing and understanding and doing the engineering that we focus on. So the practical skills and getting the students to understand and comprehend and do calculations so that they can understand what they're learning. And so the lecturer becomes more a facilitator of the knowledge, skills and competencies. So he has gone from being lecture driven lectures to more lab lectures, where a lot of the lectures now are part of laboratory experiments and laboratory classes where students have, as part of the lecture, they might work on a piece of equipment if it's in the mechanical engineer or electrical engineering areas. So it's that sort of a change.
Dusty Rhodes 5:23
So it's kind of upside down. So it's back in the day when I when I was in a learning environment where you kind of do all the paperwork and the books at home. And then you go into the class and you and you're able to ask questions and everything with the professor's pardon me? How do you see things have changed in the last 1015 years?
Una Beagon 5:42
Yeah, I would agree with Maria. It used to be very teacher centered, it was all about what the teacher did. And that was that idea of the sage on the stage. And it's very much changed to a student centered concept now where it's all about what the student does. And, and the terminology is was is the guide on the side that that's the role of the lecture. And I. And one of the things I think that's interesting about that is, back when I was at college, the professor had all of the information. And I sat in class trying to write down all of the notes to get that information. And with the Internet, now, information is available at our fingertips. And so we're trying to expose our students to ways to develop what we might call critical thinking skills, being able to discern what's important or what's not important, or what's accurate, and what's inaccurate on the Internet, because that's freely available information is both a challenge and something to be careful about.
Dusty Rhodes 6:36
Have either of you noticed an influx of AI generated papers being handed in?
Maria Kyne 6:43
There's a lot of talk about this, and some lecturers have seen it. And their view basically is that it looks wrong, you know, that they either know the students work from either being with them in class or elsewhere. And when it comes to something like that, like the the chat GBT or other assessment tools come in, then the it looks wrong to the lecture, the lecture can recognise for the most part, but they have to, I mean, there will be dramatic changes to assessment methodologies in the last year or so. So that you either have more ORS or more individually assigned projects, where the each leg, each student would have a slightly different problem to analyse.
Dusty Rhodes 7:32
So AI and digital tools and Internet is is one thing, how have things changed in the last 1015 years with collaborating, collaborating between yourself and students or students collaborating with each other?
Una Beagon 7:45
Yeah, I think there's been a much more recognition in recent years about the importance of collaborative working, and multidisciplinary, working and working in teams. And certainly, there's an awful lot of our modules now which have group projects in them. And we provide scaffolding to the students to help them learn how to work in a team. I have a few of examples of that, that we could maybe talk about later. But one of the aspects that we might talk about is the focus, I guess, between the balance of what we might call technical engineering skills, and other skills, which we might call professional skills or non technical skills. And they are quite important as well. So it's important that we expose our students to opportunities to practice those skills. In addition to the technical skills, collaborative working multidisciplinary working are two good examples of those.
Maria Kyne 8:33
Yeah, the engineers Ireland accreditation process highlights the need for both the professional and the technical skills. So when they they accredit engineering programs, they're looking for both, and they're looking for a student's exposure to both the technical and professional skills.
Dusty Rhodes 8:52
Now one thing I always hear about Ireland, I think it's been beaten into me as a child is that we are the land of saints and scholars and that we do doctors and engineering and universities better than any other country in the entire world. What is the reality? I know we do have a good reputation. But how are our courses here actually assessed internationally.
Maria Kyne 9:15
We are part of engineers, Ireland and our programs are accredited by the relevant professional bodies, the engineering and construction programs. They in turn, are assessed by the International Engineering Alliance where we have international Accords, such as the Washington record for level eight engineering programs, the Sydney accord for level seven engineering programs or the Dublin record for level six engineering programs, and each country who are part of these signatory agreements. They are assessed that their level eights are similar to ours. So we're our level eight, our level eight which would be the honours degrees, they are on par With what is taught and how it's taught in, in Australia, America, Canada, throughout the world, anyone who's part of these international engineering agreements, and most countries in the world over the last 2025 years have signed up to the Sydney accord and the dot Washington accord. And that has provided to some extent a harmonisation of engineering degrees and the standards, the graduate standards, which we call the graduate attributes,
Dusty Rhodes 10:33
it sounds very high level politics, when you talk about how these big cities records and stuff like that, how do they actually kind of agree that the level of course in one country is equivalent to one in Ireland?
Maria Kyne 10:45
I am an international reviewer. So what happens is that three international reviewers from different countries go to for instance, I was on one in the in the UK there recently for the Sydney accord. And we visit three colleges for trade Sydney accord was level seven soldiers, they incorporate engineer in the UK. And we look at three programs that would be fighting students with qualifications which they could use towards becoming a cooperation's engineer. And we looked at all their learning outcomes, we looked at how these programs were accredited, and we looked at the way our the way the programs are being examined, accredited, similar to the way we do it in Ireland, and the standards, are they similar? And we write a report then that goes to the IEA. And they decide whether the UK EC, the Engineering Council UK, gets the accreditation for, gets to be a member of the Sydney accord?
Dusty Rhodes 11:47
And does this mean that you have to travel to Sydney?
Maria Kyne 11:50
No, it's all online. Now in the in the pre COVID days, there was a time where you travelled internationally. But nowadays it's it's so much more convenient to do something like that online.
Dusty Rhodes 12:03
Yeah, sometimes. Trip to Sydney, I don't care how inconvenient it is. But I mean, that's it's good, though, that there is kind of a committee and its people from different countries and regions. And and there is a consensus there. And that's how you're seeing how the causes are recognised internationally. However, things are changing so fast in the in the world, how are the courses kept up to date?
Maria Kyne 12:29
Well, we it's all about accreditation criteria, and the accreditation criteria change regularly, in relation to the needs and changes in the in the wider world out there. For instance, the accreditation criteria of engineers Ireland has sought have embraced sustainability in a new way they've project embraced engineering management in a new way, in the latest revision, which was only a year ago, two years ago now.
Dusty Rhodes 12:57
And again, an example of how they did that.
Maria Kyne 13:00
They put in another program outcome and each engineering program must have must have examples of how they teach that program outcome to students.
Dusty Rhodes 13:10
Owner, let me catch up with yourself because I'm thinking now kind of the future and what's going to happen next. What kind of skills do you think that engineers are going to need, and to learn and to have another under their belt in the future?
Una Beagon 13:26
And I was recently involved in an Erasmus Plus a European project called a step 2030. And we asked that very question. So we held focus groups, with academics, with students and with industrial employers in four different European countries, to really look into the future, at what skills engineers would need to help solve the SDGs the sustainable development goals in particular. And what we find is that skills come out in sort of three funnels, let's say. The first was technical skills, which absolutely engineers need. The second was non technical skills. And what we mean by that are skills like outward facing skills, people orientated skills, things like intercultural skills, collaboration, leadership, negotiation, an inward facing skills, things of things like critical thinking, lifecycle thinking, systems thinking, ways of thinking. And the final funnel was about attitudes or their attitudes towards their world view, global awareness, social responsibility, sustainability, awareness, and also their character and ethical orientation. So things like are they agile and adaptable, open minded? We ended up I think, with 54 different skills that engineers need to so you might ask this later, but the challenges of academia I think that's one of them.
Dusty Rhodes 14:48
I was gonna ask you about that now. Because I mean, yeah, it's one thing talking about, you know, what the engineers need to learn. You guys need to teach us so so I mean, what new teaching methods do you have of our technologies are you using to get these skills across?
Una Beagon 15:03
Yeah, I think that's an interesting one. Because I don't think that one answer answers everything, I think we've got to go at it with different approaches, I guess. One of the other projects that I'm working on is called profess 12 styles, professional skills for engineering students to solve SDG 12. It's a UTA funded project with Ulster University as part of the North side's program. So we're trying to build connections between engineering students in the north and in the sides. And as part of that summer school, we're looking specifically at opportunities for students to develop two things, one being the engineering skills to solve SDG 12. And also a clear focus on intercultural skills. Because I think one of the things of the future is that engineers can no longer just sit at their desk with their head down and do calculations. It used to be that case, maybe 30 years ago, now engineers have to be much more externally focused, aware of the social impact of their designs, and that requires a different set of skills. So this summer school that we're in the middle of designing at the moment, we're going to run workshops on the circular economy, things like debates on the SDGs, to really to help students develop those skills of speaking and collaborating and getting the message out there. Much more than just engineering technical skills.
Maria Kyne 16:25
We also work closer with industry than we used to, in in, you know, 2030 years ago, we have greater links with industry, industry, need engineering graduates, so they're happy to work with us to try and give us the knowledge that we need and the equipment that we need, so that the graduates when they graduate have the skills that industry require. So we have lots of new ways of interacting with industry such as the regional skills for that were set up. In recent years such as the we have an explorer engineering, which was formerly known as the limerick for engineering group. And that's where we have the engineering industries in the Midwest region, they come together, and they try our mission is to try and increase the quality and quantity of engineers and technicians in the Midwest, so that they are available for industry. So industry tell us what they want, what skill sets they need. And there is a big focus on the professional skills that engineers the need, because most people who do engineering are quite good on the kind of the maths, the technical skills, they will naturally get that. But they want people to be more aware of the social skills and the professional skills.
Dusty Rhodes 17:45
So how's this working out for everybody, because it's not just a work placement or work experience kind of thing. It's obviously more advanced than that. In what way,
Una Beagon 17:55
I think there's a couple of different ways, I might give you one example of what we call problem based learning. So this is a Friday afternoon class with our first year engineers, and they work in a studio, we break them into groups of about five or six people. And the problem is that they have to design a pedestrian bridge to span I think it's six meters in a disaster scenario in a in a country that has just experienced, you know, an earthquake or something full stop. So off the student goes, they have to do research on what materials are available in that country, they have to do research on flood history, so they can calculate the depth of the trust and how far it should be above the water level, and so on. And we give them little mini lectures on how to design a bridge and that type of thing. But at the end of this problem based learning, they get the opportunity to construct a full scale bridge and we tested often pond boat street, so it's fun, you know, and they really engage in the project because they're not sitting in a lecture theatre, listening about stuff. So I think that whole idea of teaching them the skills to learn, look learning to learn, they're, they're only in college for three or four years. That's only the basic foundation of what they're going to do in life. So lifelong learning is really important. And they shouldn't constantly be looking at the lectures for the answers, they have to kind of take control and engage in their own learning. So that idea of learning to learn so that problem based learning idea is one example that we use, Maria may well have more
Maria Kyne 19:25
it keeping up to date with technological advances to is very important, you know, because there's new and emerging themes from time to time towards renewable energy a few years ago, sustainable development now climate action is growing. precision engineering is a growing area, so it's keeping up to date with all the new technological advances in these areas is very important so that the students have the knowledge and know how to operate these machines or beam forward. Construction and built environment area. So it they're all new software, software comes out, it's in, it's involved for a number of years, then something better comes out, it's involved for a number of years, and so on, so forth. So you're all the time changing, improving, getting better systems that help us do our work. And that makes us more efficient.
Dusty Rhodes 20:26
And so if the tools are changing all the time, how are you able to keep up with your teaching methods and the technologies that you were using to teach people how to do use these tools,
Maria Kyne 20:37
it's, again, it's interaction with industry, interaction with professional bodies, interaction with with students going out industries, all the staff have connections with industry, they're doing research with industry, either through research projects, such as level eight, or level nine students are in industry and the staff are working with industries, and solving industry problems with the assistance of the students doing the research.
Dusty Rhodes 21:08
So we have the example of you have to build a bridge in a war torn country or a disaster area, our industry people like here in Ireland that you're working with actually saying, you know, we have these interesting day to day problems, like there's a bug and we need to put a warehouse on it. And you need to figure that out how they come to you with kind of problems like that. And they're telling you, that's the problem. And we need it to be solved using a, b and c.
Una Beagon 21:33
Absolutely. And I think as Maria said, that relationship with industry has gotten much closer in the last 15 or 20 years, and particularly not so much at first year for really just getting the engineering students in the door. But on their final year project where they're really going into depth and are some research, we absolutely do joint collaborative projects with industry. And I think as Maria mentioned, that's where that technological advancement and keeping up to date really comes in. Yeah.
Dusty Rhodes 22:00
Now each of you are tied with this specific university. Is this something just with the universities you're associated with? Or is it something that is across the board with universities across Ireland?
Maria Kyne 22:11
Yeah, I know, there's a strong alliance with the IU at the end as a strong alliance with the technological universities. We've all known each other for numerous years. And we meet regularly the heads of School of Engineering in the Eye Institute of Technology, as was, they all meet once every two or three months share information share, learning, and that we found to be very helpful. And it's kind of information exchange across the university sector. And the institute of technology sectors was,
Una Beagon 22:48
and just as Maria mentioned, actually engineers, Ireland organise a coffee morning at the start of every semester, which is just an online coffee morning. And that is just a mind of information. Because we know all of the faces from around the country, we're involved in a lot of, you know, through accreditation through professional bodies. So that's a great place to hear what's going on and to realise that maybe your challenges are, are shared by others. So yeah, it's a great network of people that I've come across.
Dusty Rhodes 23:15
Let me ask you, because you have such a huge responsibility in your head, both of you a huge responsibility in your hands, but you because you're shaping how engineer is going to be taught in the future. And I love how you're gonna particularly look at teaching, and how people have different ways of learning. We all take things in different ways. Some people are good at listening, some people are good at reading, some people are good with their eyes. Can you give me some examples of new teaching methods and technologies that are being used to teach to take these things into account?
Una Beagon 23:48
Yeah, it's interesting that you mentioned that actually, I'm reminded of a course I undertook probably last year. There's a concept called universal design for learning that you might have heard of, it's called UDL. It was originally I think, proposed by a guy called David Rose. And it's a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn, including students with disabilities. And I did a course by a head who are this independent nonprofit organisation, which have fabulous courses on UDL. And I originally did it because I wanted to be more inclusive and what my connections were with students. But really, I learned an awful lot about myself from having done it. So just as you mentioned dusty, it's all about giving students an opportunity either to assimilate the information in different ways or produce learning outcomes or evidence of learning outcomes in different ways. And I'll give you an example of what I did in a minute. But what I realised about myself is I am a reader. I would much rather read a document, then have to watch a video because I get so impatient watching a video is quicker, go quicker. Whereas with a document I can scan It really quickly I know whether it's relevant or not. So I learned a lot about myself. But the example that I might give you is, in my role, I get a lot of emails from students with questions about different things. And one thing that comes up a lot is how to read their exam results. So it's not just as simple as what the mark is, we have codes on it, we have rules on compensating, and so on. And so as part of the UD Dale UDL experience, I created different ways of explaining how to read your exam results. So we had things like I created a Word document with Arial font, because that's better for students with decks dyslexia, I sent the Word document, not the PDF, because then students can increase the font size, if they find it easier to read. And I created a video, I did a voiceover and I give the students the information in all of these different ways. And it got great feedback, because as I say, I learned myself, I have a way I like to learn. So that was really, you know, a new new information for myself. So just to bring that in to how we assess students, I think things are changing. I think the idea that students can only prove that they've met the learning outcomes from writing an essay and handing it up is is quite old. I think at this stage, I think lots of universities are realising the benefit of giving students different opportunities to prove they've met the learning outcomes. And as part of a summer school that Iran, last year, we had students do a project on what is the future of engineering education look like. But we give them an option to tell us that in whatever way they wanted. And we had some students who created a skit, and it was really entertaining and really engaging. We had others that created a cartoon animation. And it was absolutely fantastic. And I think just getting to that position, where we're saying writing an essay is not the only way that you can prove you have met a learning outcome is really novel. So
Dusty Rhodes 26:59
I'm quite fascinated with an area of study that you have done or done or whether you did briefly, are you going into it very deeply. And it's a tough one to say, phenomena geography, which measures how different people experience things or phenomena in different ways. And as you were saying, some people will prefer watching a video to reading a text. And my question is, when you're asking people you tried to study how people take it in, how do you measure it? That's, that's a heck of a challenge in my head, how do you actually quantify and measure that?
Una Beagon 27:34
Yeah, that's, that's a good question. I suppose I would come back to say, you can't measure it. So when I was looking at the phenomenographic study that I undertook was how lecturers consider what are professional skills? And how do we teach them? So you don't really ask them? What do you think professional skills? Are you ask them questions around the subjects, and they answer it in an interview form. And then you analyse that as a kind of a detracted observer to see what are the differing ways that people experienced this. So when you say, measure it against the word I would use as they revealed, whatever their thoughts were through this interview process. And then I took that on board and wrote that up in a kind of a thesis, I guess. And one of the interesting things that I find actually, in that piece of research was I was looking at the different ways that lecturers teach professional skills, without asking them that question. And it varied from things like transmitting knowledge. So far, they're the expert, and they're telling the students so that's the lecture form, we're used to that. And also practising where you're in a workshop, like Maria mentioned, and you're practising, pinning the theory into practice, mirroring the industry environment, those types of projects where we give students a project to do, but the top one really they came out as the overarching way of teaching professional skills was role modelling. So that was quite interesting. The fact that what a lecturer does every day and how they interact with students is a role model on how to act professionally.
Dusty Rhodes 29:09
Maria, let me come back to you and let's kind of I suppose it's following on from from what owners saying about role models and stuff like that, the whole idea of apprenticeships and working with companies here in Ireland and getting real, you know, kind of hands on and you're surrounded by the kind of people that you want to be like, yeah, it's one of the phrases I've heard growing up hanging out with the people you want to be like, so this whole apprenticeship thing. How, while somebody is doing an apprenticeship, are you able to balance theory and practical experience?
Maria Kyne 29:44
Yes. All apprenticeships are the traditional apprenticeships have. test phases, there's seven phases in the traditional apprenticeships. Three of them are in an educational environment. So the first phase is you're out of work for a certain period of time, then you come into an EPB for 22 weeks on phase two, then you're out of work again for around six months, then you come back into t you for one semester, it's about a 12 week term, then you go out again to industry for another six months, then you come back in again to to you for phase six. So it's a learning phase again, and then you're back out working in industry for the final phase, phase seven. So those are the traditional ways in which apprenticeship have been taught, be it for carpentry, joinery, electrical, plumbing, anything like that. But there are a whole range of new apprenticeships now. And there are certain criteria, there must be between two and four years in duration. And they must have at least 50% of the time in the work environment. So there's two types really, of apprenticeship that have emerged, either somebody comes on site one to two days a week in an educational environment, and dads the other days at work, or they come on, like you do for the traditional apprenticeship where you have a block of time, and they're in an education environment. But again, it is an in and out process. So there might be five phases or more in an apprenticeship, depending on the duration of the apprenticeship. And where the shoot the apprentice is in and out of an educational environment. They're in a work environment. So it's on the job, or they're off the job, where they're in an educational environment. And they're doing more theory based stuff. So it's a mixture. And it's part of their learning experience, where they're going off the job on the job of the job on the job. So the two are mixing as they gain experience in their apprenticeship. So the standard traditional craft based apprenticeship is four years. Both the new apprenticeships can be anything from two to four years, depending on which level in the Q Qi national framework of qualifications, the apprenticeship is, and also quite experienced, the student or the apprentice had before they joined the apprenticeship.
Dusty Rhodes 32:20
Here's a strange question for you, Maria, do you think that as we continue on throughout our careers, and we're fully professional engineers, that we should take an apprenticeship every couple of years,
Maria Kyne 32:32
I think it would be a great idea. And if it could be managed, I think you would be hired for somebody to be at work for two years, then go and do an apprenticeship come back in again, I don't think he could be rigorous. But it probably could be encouraged in the workplace. But I think it would be a great idea, especially for someone like ourselves, which we're out of industry for a while, that every so often. So hence, the sabbatical system that was always there helps and supports that it allows academics, to dip in and out of industry at regular periods to keep up to date.
Dusty Rhodes 33:12
I know because he often think of apprenticeship when you're in your university years, but you never think of it like you when you've been placed with a firm for 10 years, or you're working professionally for 10 years. And it wouldn't be great to go off. And, you know, kind of, of course, I'd want to do my apprenticeship in Sydney.
Una Beagon 33:29
I think that idea of lifelong learning No, just stay is an important one. I mean, I don't know about Maria. But after you become a an engineering graduate, then the next step is to become chartered. So you do all of that. And I mean, in my own case, I went back and did a PhD in my 40s. And I thought I was done with education way before that. And even now doing that ahead course last week, or last year, and so on, it's really important to keep up our skills. They talk about everyone having three careers in their lifetime. And that's going to really change quite dramatically. Because there's some statistics out there that people who are at school at this stage, half of the jobs haven't even been created yet. So, you know, it's difficult for them to choose a course. So I think recognising that, that we need to be lifelong learning lifelong learners is really important. And I gotta get a final plug in for a different project that I'm working on. It's an Erasmus Plus funded project with colleagues in KU Leuven in Belgium and l ut in Finland, called train Inge PDP. And it's all about training engineers for lifelong learning skills through a personal development process. And engineers Ireland are actually one of the supporters of this project because we're trying to make that transition from, you know, being a student, getting your degree going out into industry, and then suddenly, you're faced with, you know, continuing professional development, we're trying to make that a little bit more seamless. So we're working on some pilot interventions in the classroom with students to try to help them develop these lifelong learning skills of refection and planning and so on. And And earlier in their career then once they get into industry
Dusty Rhodes 35:03
x that's a train a p dp for personal development process. Yeah. And while you're while you're here on the podcast is selling your wares una, you must profess 12 You said it was a summer school, I when I think of a summer school, I'm immediately thinking of myself as a little boy in the woods somewhere, whatever for a couple of weeks. Sure, it is not like that. How does the summer school work?
Una Beagon 35:27
Yeah, it's a five day summer school school for 10 Engineering students from to Dublin and 10 engineering students from Ulster University. And we're spending two and a half days up in Belfast and two and a half days in Dublin. And we're looking at different workshops and things that we can put in place for these five days, it's going to be really intense for the students. And it's an extra curricular activity for them. But I mean, to have something like that on their CV as they go for job interviews would be fantastic. So I really fingers crossed, it's gonna go well, but planning is going well, so far. Anyway,
Dusty Rhodes 35:59
rad, we'll have links for those in the show notes. So if you're listening on your podcast player, or phone or whatever, at the moment, it's all in there in the description for you. You've kind of touched it, you've both actually touched on a thing there where it's continuous professional development, and we're getting older and kind of learning things. It must mean for you guys that the diversity of students that you're dealing with is just changing all the time, you've got people at different stages of their lives, you've got him or her they, you've got the people who want different things out of their career and stuff like that. How are universities keeping up with different course programs to handle this range of people? Maria,
Maria Kyne 36:41
yes. And we have a lot of students who do courses by, by flexible learning, we call it where they're taking courses at night courses at the weekends, mostly online courses. And if you're talking about people who are doing lifelong learning, a lot of them have have a degree or a working towards a degree. And if they have a degree, a lot of them are doing online, master's programs. And they find that works well for them in the online programs. And we have been very successful on the online master's programs and a lot of international students. They like to come to Ireland to do our online master's programs. And we find they're very Sikhs, were very successful in recruiting international students for online master's programs.
Dusty Rhodes 37:31
And what is the general attitude of employers, when you're looking at this additional part time education for yourself as well as doing your job?
Maria Kyne 37:39
I think the regional skills for have helped because they have strengthened the link between industries and education. And they have helped employers see the benefits of the lifelong learning. And they're working with employers to show them the funding streams that can support them to have their staff being being further developed. So employers are all for staff getting better skills, but they just weren't aware of the funding opportunities to skills, nets and other other mechanisms that were available to them to help them upskill their employees. So I regional skills form have played a huge role in helping that along over in recent years.
Dusty Rhodes 38:25
So if I'm working in a firm, and there's no real kind of clear further education or personal development program, and I want to suggest it, what do you think I should Google what what should I search on Google just to get more information? What phrase would you use?
Maria Kyne 38:42
flexible learning flexible learning? Course Yeah, yeah. All right. Okay,
Dusty Rhodes 38:49
part time courses on flexible learning. All right. Listen, it's absolutely fascinating chatting to the peer review and getting it from the point of view of people who are teaching the next generation of engineers who are coming down the line, and also the engineers who are in the business at the moment. I've got one final question for each of you. And it's, it's a bit of a zinger. Alright. I hate to ask him double barrelled questions, but I'm going to ask you one. Alright. So as you can decide who wants to go first on this? The question is, from what you see that is coming down the line, from an engineering perspective. What do you think we should be afraid of? And what should we look forward to?
Maria Kyne 39:25
Okay, I'm going to start this one. Okay. I think the what we don't need to be afraid of anything because all the challenges we've had to face as engineers, we've been able to overcome them. So I don't envisage anything to be afraid of climate action may need a lot of work. But I do think we can come to some solution around that keeping up to date with industry advances and technological advances, and also the synergies between what we call a traditional engineer In disciplines, that's an area we'll have to get into. In terms of the good stuff, the benefits, I think we have our collaborations with industry, with other higher education institutions. They're improving all the time. And with the global communication through accreditation and research, I think that's very positive, and I think can only help help us all going forward.
Dusty Rhodes 40:25
And only for yourself, what do you think we should look forward to? And what should we fear?
Una Beagon 40:30
Yeah, a bit like Maria, I don't think we have anything to fear. I think our experience during the COVID pandemic has showed us that we are perseverant. And we have grits, and we're agile. So, I mean, the only thing we know is that change is inevitable. And once we accept that, it's like, Okay, what's next? So we'd see these as challenges. I think, the thing that I'm looking forward to most I think, maybe Maria feels the same, I get such joy out of going to graduation, and seeing the students who have been in college for three or four years come through and graduate and turn into engineers. And it's a really bright future. They're just great students. So I think that's what I'm looking forward to. They're going out into the world 30 years after I did with a whole different mindset and a whole different set of attitudes towards the environment and stay in sustainability. So that's what I'm looking forward to see what their impact is on our building stock and on our planet.
Dusty Rhodes 41:24
Una Beagon, Head of Civil Engineering as the Technological University in Dublin and Maria Kyne, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the Technical University of the Shannon, thank you both so much for joining us.
Maria Kyne 41:36
You're very welcome.
Dusty Rhodes 41:39
If you'd like to find out more about what we spoke about on the podcast today, you will find notes and link details that we mentioned in the show notes area on your podcast player on your smartphone right now. And of course you'll find more information and advanced episodes of our podcast on the website at EngineersIreland.ie
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