The company : entrepreneurship for engineers
Faculty of Applied Economics
Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences
Valenica :IATED, 2012
6th International Conference of Technology, Education and Development (INTED), March 5-7, 2012, Valencia, Spain
University of Antwerp
Belgian engineering education has a long tradition based on mathematical rigor and a thorough knowledge of science and technology. A student who pursues an engineering degree is generally perceived as a somewhat nerdy person, proficient in maths and sciences and, preferably, a handy-andy. What is less obvious, is that our whole education system seems to turn them into employees. Going to work for a (big) company seems the logical thing to do. The alternatives of becoming self-employed or an entrepreneur seem to be ironed out of the curriculum. "The Company" is a set of educational activities that engineering students of the Karel de Grote University College can choose to get acquainted with entrepreneurship and management. Its characteristics are: 1. It is a continuous effort encompassing both the bachelor and the master level of their studies. We do not believe in the positive effects of one-off initiatives. 2. We aim at growth in specific competencies. We limit ourselves to competencies that are not inherent to a person who undertakes an engineering education (e.g., analytical skills). The whole concept of competencies and competency-based education is a pedagogical minefield. We take a pragmatic approach and propose to use competencies where it is informative and useful for the further development of the student. 3. All students (freshmen to masters) regularly work together. The students come from different technical fields (mechanics, electronics, electrical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry). 4. "The Company" has the look and feel of a real company. "The Company" is lead by a team of directors (students in their master year) who have to apply for these functions and are chosen by the board of external directors. What is considered normal in a business context (e.g. a professional standard of communication (written an oral)) is also required within "The Company". 5. "The Company" is based on action. The consequence is that we have reduced theoretical lectures in order to free up time for projects. We aim at a strong basis on principles (e.g., in financial management, in project management, in marketing) and regularly come back to these principles throughout the entire curriculum. 6. "The Company" is linked to outside companies that are innovative and have shown an interest in higher education and promote entrepreneurship. We still train engineers, we still train excellent engineers, but we also hope that they can look back on technical achievement and wonder if there is a product or service waiting to be put before a delighted customer.