DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Heimdal, Anette; Lande, Ingrid
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Agder, Norway
Section: The potential of interdisciplinary activities to foster responsible innovation
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.3
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


To develop the employees for the future we need to address the students of today. According to the World Economic Forum there are four types of skills that are needed for the jobs of tomorrow: problem-solving, self-management, how to work with people, and technology use and development. The Norwegian government states in the white paper “Education for restructuring – increased working relevance in higher education” (Meld. St. 16 (2020-2021)) that to prepare the students for the jobs of tomorrow the educational institutions need to decrease the gap between the academics and the industry. Consequently, the educational institutions need to increase the work relevance in the courses taught in the study programs. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did a study in 2018 to investigate how students managed the transition from student to employee. The study concluded that Norwegian higher education prepared the students for the industry. However, the same report stated that the Norwegian higher education lacks work relevance in their study programs. The white paper “Education for restructuring – increased working relevance in higher education” (Meld. St. 16 (2020-2021)) solely mentions internship as a work relevance, but also encourage study programs to find other ways of introducing work relevance in higher education. “Internship in Higher Education” points out challenges in implementing internship programs, such as diverse expectations, the required competencies to establish professional practice, inadequate resources from universities and students who struggle to secure a suitable internship experience. The Civil Engineering Department at the University of Agder have made various attempts to increase work relevance. Despite this, the students still rate the work relevance relatively low. Hence, this paper investigates what the students consider to be work relevant in their study, and what the students believe the study program could improve to better prepare them for the industry. Two surveys were distributed in the beginning of October 2022 to all the bachelor and master students in Civil Engineering at the University of Agder: one for the bachelor students and one for the master students. The result from the surveys indicates that the students find many of the courses and the design of the lectures to be work relevant. In addition, they rated the various measures of work relevance in their study, such as normal lectures, exercises, exams, laboratory work, project work, internship, software, small talk with lecturers and fellow students, excursions, and guest lectures. The students rated the measures from 1, meaning highly irrelevant, to 5, highly relevant. As expected, internship scored most ratings of 5 (63%). However, when we included the scores 4 (relevant) and 5 (highly relevant), the measure that was rated highest by the students was not internship. Interestingly, excursions (88%), laboratory work (82%) and projects (81%) scored higher than internship (79%). Internship can be difficult to organise for some study programs as it usually involves a considerable degree of effort and time. These findings could help study programs to improve their work relevance without going to the extent of implementing internship.

Keywords: Work relevance, Civil Engineering, Education, Survey


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