Throughout this series, we have identified the validity of the skills gap and its implications across industries. We know that a higher number of companies need of work-ready talent. We also know that an increasing amount of graduates are leaving schools without crucial skills employers need.
For graduates to find success in the growing digital world and contribute to their employers’ business, they need real-world experience with the tools, processes and problem solving skills that can only be developed through competitive teamwork. They also need expanded knowledge in digitalization to efficiently do their jobs.
Ensuring students have the skills they need to go beyond the classroom is one goal all learning institutions share. But the current job market has made it more important than ever to update curriculum and teaching methods so graduates have real world skills.
Lulea University of Technology is a leading university in Sweden with a vision dedicated to research results that bring change by revamping its engineering education and training. The university is a thriving center of teaching and research and is known for its industry collaboration.
That collaboration ensures students enrolled in the engineering department are introduced to both the theory and practical applications behind digitalization through real-world problems in the classroom.
The department’s revamp engineering education and training combines the practicality of software skills with engineering knowledge in its curriculum, so students learn to address and solve design and manufacturing problems early in their studies. This early exposure leads to graduates who have the right skills, knowledge and experience needed to succeed in digital factories, as well as capabilities that can ultimately shrink the skills gap.
Students at Luleå get the opportunity to apply their practical engineering education and training to real business challenges companies face.
“We give students the opportunity to solve real-world problems and make better products by considering overall function, performance, production and lifecycle,” said Peter Jeppsson, senior lecturer at the university. “We use computer-aided design and simulation for every aspect of the product design process. We use Teamcenter in our project courses so the students can collaborate in different domains – CAD, simulation and manufacturing.”
Associate professor in industrial electronics Jan van Deventer said that educating students through theory and practical experience helps them become more employable graduates.
“Because students at Luleå University can build things and test their ideas, they are more than ready to contribute to industry when they graduate,” he said.
In addition to wanting employees with the right skills, companies need graduates with knowledge and experience in the tools and processes used on a daily basis. Luleå's curriculum goes well beyond CAD, due to the university’s academic partnership with Siemens PLM Software. Through this partnership, Luleå students gain experience in industry-grade tools and methods, including in NX, Simcenter, Teamcenter and Tecnomatix.
Torbörn Ilar, associate professor, notes how graduates are more attractive to employers.
“Our university graduates are making the Swedish industry much more competitive,” he said. “We make it possible for them to use the state-of the-art modeling tools in an efficient way to develop more and more complex manufacturing systems.”
Ilar also said that this experience with developing and predicting the performance of a manufacturing system teaches students how to get the most essential information to support decision making.
“They are able to share their experience of working to industry-standard best practice with their future employers and colleagues.”
Jan-Olov Aidanpää, chair professor in product development, also noted the importance of digital twins in the experience students gain.
“Today, digital twins are important in research,” he said. “By using Siemens PLM tools, the students are gaining the methodology to work, they are learning how to do effective engineering work and that knowledge is the main thing they are carrying out into industry.”
Luleå University also works with Siemens to provide students key training content to help them develop the skills employers want. Students and educators at Luleå have free access to Siemens online learning portal - Learning Advantage.
“Learning Advantage invites students to explore the software, then gives them challenges according to their own progress and development,” Jeppsson said. “There is always something new to learn, which is why advanced students never get bored.”
We’ve seen that top performing companies recommend multi-discipline, team-based projects that include design, analysis, test and build. Students at Lulea enter the market with attractive employable skills due to strong curriculum, real-world projects and industrial strength training.
Highly trained and heavily recruited graduates
Luleå University continues to take extra steps to ensure students have what they need to be successful beyond the classroom by providing students with practical use and knowledge of industry-preferred software and methods. The school’s engineering education and training emphasizes building efficient, environmentally friendly products that require students to understand product lifecycle management.
Luleå University is taking steps to ensure students leave with employable skills that are in high demand at top companies. Take recent Luleå graduate, Elias Löthman. A former student and industrial design engineering graduate, Elias now works as an application engineer specializing in automotive powertrain for a large specialist steel producer.
Working with tools such as NX as a student helped Löthman in his career, he said, because it provided him with a deeper understanding with what the benefits of industry-preferred software can provide to a business and to a user.
“It gives you an idea of what a commercial high-end software can do today, and with the efficient user interface, you can easily find new features and instantly understand how to use them,” he said. “Because everything is integrated into the same platform, you don’t have to change working environments throughout the development process. With the Siemens portfolio you can go from a blank part to a simulated optimized part with only one window open.”
What Luleå’s engineering education and training gets right
Luleå University is closing the skills gap with the right mix of theory and application so graduates like Elias bring a competitive set of digital knowledge and experience to their new employers on day one.
When we discussed how to engineer our way out of the skills gap, we highlighted new research from Tech Clarity, particularly with what top versus average performers are doing. They found new hires stay at top-performing companies nearly 40 percent longer than average performers – or more than seven years.
With this kind of work, it’s clear that top performing companies in Sweden are collaborating with Luleå University to ensure a future-ready workforce.
About the author Dora Smith is the senior director of the global academic program for Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of Siemens Digital Factory Division. Under Dora’s leadership, the global academic program is now a company-wide strategic initiative for the company. The program empowers the next generation of digital talent through project-based learning, STEM competitions and industrial strength software and curriculum to support more than 1 million students and more than 3,000 institutions worldwide. Dora is an accredited business communicator with more than 20 years of experience. Previously, she held executive management positions at CAD Potential (now part of Tata Technologies), where she developed the company’s first academic and certification programs. Prior to that, she directed the Unigraphics Users Group (now PLM World) an independent, not-for-profit organization supporting the engineering community. She also served as president on the board of directors of IABC St. Louis. Dora earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in business administration from Washington University.