Where in the world are the engineering mentors? Experts are saying that engineering mentorship is something that could lead to more competent engineering workforce in every industry. Not only is mentorship being encouraged at the college level but also at the working level. It is seemingly never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
An impressive feat of instilling an attitude of mentorship occurs at Penn State University. At the Penn State Mechanical Engineering Society (PSMES) the alumni of the society have been forming mentorship programs for the last eight years. The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering oversees this project and can see 39 alumni mentors to 54 students.
Brandon Angle, a mechanical engineering junior in the PSMES program told the Penn State website: "My mentor and I often communicate right before a big event and he'll give me the confidence I need. It helps to have the guidance from someone who's been there and who went through all the experiences that I'm going to go through and just knowing that if I take his advice it's probably going to lead me somewhere where I want to be."
An alumnus involved with the project, Robert Swope, who has his qualification in mechanical engineering, said: "Almost all of the students I've mentored have not really focused on what they want to do. They have a vague idea of their goals, but they can't verbalize what their career would be."
Mentoring, of course, is not limited to the college set-up but can also be practiced within a company. The Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institue of Technology, Steve Mackay, talks of 'mentoring vigorously'. He says the process can be done by: "Taking your young engineers, the new guys, the new chums on the block who have joined the company, and give them some support. In the old days, we had lovely two, three three-year training programs for engineers, of course, most of those are gone. So, it's up to us."
"Helping a poor young graduate who's probably come from a very high theoretical background, done some exotic mathematics at a university for three or four years and finds the workplace completely different. So, the trick is, to come along and give them a helping hand and get them to work productively as engineers as soon as possible," Mackay said, in the tenth episode of his YouTube series, the Engineering News Network. He also gives a checklist of mentoring guidelines that can be handed down to a young engineer so that they can learn the ropes:
- Give them some worthwhile projects to do
- Give them a vision
- Give them ongoing support
- Help them with troubleshooting
- Give them some basic skills: project management, communications skills
- Try and get them to do a lot of hands hands-on projects
Elsewhere in the world, Bosch is setting up 75 "vocational training opportunities" where students will interact with professionals, mentors and higher-ups in subjects like mechatronics and industrial mechanics. The new 75 positions exclusive to Italy and Spain join the handful of other projects they run in Germany. The company is certain their mentoring and setting up of apprenticeships will deal with societal issues like youth unemployment and build a good wave of competent engineers in countries that would be improved by the assistance of engineers.