Mentorship key to enhancing professional development of Engineering students – Experts

Experts have affirmed that internship and mentorship play a key role in enhancing industrial skill-based practices and professional development in Engineering education in Nigeria.

This was noted by panelists at a special panel discussion hosted by EngineeringXpress in collaboration with the University of Engineering Students Association of the Faculty of Engineering, UNN chapter under the theme “Fostering Effective Academic-Industry Linkages to Enhance Industrial Skill-Based Practices in Engineering Education in Nigeria” on 27th June, 2023 in Enugu State.

According to Dr. Uzor Onyia, the Principal Investigator of EngineeringXpress, the project is designed to build and maintain the capacity for safe and innovative engineering education and practice by understanding and closing the gaps between engineering education and industry practice in Nigeria.

The topic “Bridging the Skill Gap: Collaborative Strategies for Academic-Industrial Partnerships in Engineering,” was discussed by a carefully selected panel that included engineering education experts, industry players, students with the sole aim of exploring and aligning engineering education with industry needs and best way to close the existing gap between industry and academia.

When the question about how academic-industrial partnerships can enhance the practical skills and professional development of engineering students was raised, the experts unanimously agreed that internships play a vital role in this regard, as they provide students with industry relevant skills and early career practical experience on industry-related projects.

They also identified mentorship as a crucial element that is currently lacking in Nigerian education system. This is because the guidance and support of mentors can greatly facilitate students’ learning and development journeys, making students better equipped and guided into the national workforce. They also added that sharing research between academic institutions and industries was emphasized as a way to leverage existing knowledge and foster collaboration.

Similarly, access to industry expertise, networking opportunities, exposure to real-life problem-solving, and increased employment prospects were further highlighted as essential benefits of academic-industrial partnerships.

The panelists provided interesting case studies as successful examples of academic-industrial partnerships in engineering. These examples include the establishment of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) laboratory for training individuals in AI and data science, collaborations between energy companies and universities where staff pursue postgraduate studies while working on research topics relevant to industry challenges, and funding initiatives by organizations such as PTDF and Shell Chair to support postgraduate studies.

The creation of centers of excellence, like in Benin where industry professionals are involved in teaching, was also highlighted as examples of effective strategies for knowledge transfer and collaboration.

Moreover, competitions organized by the industry specifically for university students were commended for fostering engagement and innovation. Aligning university curricula with industry needs emerged as also crucial in preparing students for the workforce.

The panelists emphasized the importance of structuring courses to mirror industrial training experiences and involving industry representatives in curriculum design and implementation. By integrating industry perspectives, universities can ensure graduates are equipped with the practical skills required by employers.

The event was sponsored by The Royal Academy of Engineering, Lloyd’s Register Foundation and Onyia Construction in collaboration with the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) and University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

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