F2-PRO2-2 - Integrated education practice in an accelerated world: a study about firms and higher education interactions

1. Innovative Practice Work In Progress
Rosa Vasconcelos1, 2 , Emilia Araujo1, 2, Fátima Suleman1, 2
1 Rosa M. Vasconcelos
2 Minho University

Studies in Engineering Education indicate that higher education institutions face increasing challenges concerning the type of preparation they can offer to young graduates, in face of the great demands made by firms that experience increasing levels of uncertainty and acceleration. This paper aims to  debate  how  STEM areas could be developed with the contribution of a more direct relationship with Social Science fields.
A research was done in Portugal, involving interviews with CEO and higher education representatives aiming to analyze if there was any skill shortage gap as well as  what was its possible extension and nature. The research encompassed 25 semi-structured interviews with human resource managers and owners of firms from the northern region of Portugal (V.N. de Famalicão). interviews were done using a guide made of several questions concerning: identification, market and level of internationalization, recruitment policies; skill gaps and skill policies. The sample comprises firms from the most representative sectors, varying in terms of size and years of activity.A theoretical sampling method was used in order to select these firms, considering the relevance and the interest of each case for discussion the strengths, the barriers and the policies firms face in human resources recruitment as regards the changes in time uses and perceptions [1]. The data from the interviews were subjected to content analysis in order to provide insights on firms’ main concerns regarding  time perceptions and management. This ongoing research allows to conclude that firms are loudly claiming about skill shortage of young graduates on STEM, especially in areas such as leadership, communication, maturity, flexibility and availability of postponing rewards. The same research also shows that firms stablish yet poor relations with higher education institutions, namely in  the structure of the course, and the academic staff. Therefore, it is assumed that a closer relation with Social Science fields could help to reframe STEM educational offer, training ever more competences what are extremely important in engineering education, such those concerning the so called “soft skills”. Based on the information collected in the interviews, the paper discusses some of the most frequent proposals that firms and higher education representatives indicate to ameliorate the connections between these two yet separate worlds, in the field of science engineering, especially in a regional context.