Skills gap requires 'hard choices'

October 20, 2000

Shorter degree courses, closer contact with potential employers and lifelong learning schemes will all help cut the skills shortage in electronic engineering.

These were among suggestions made by University College London's John Midwinter in his inaugural address as president of the Institute of Electronic Engineers. He said rapid change in the field, together with cuts in student funding and inadequate specialisation facilities for final-year students, had led to "a growing gap between what a university can realistically deliver and what most employers have been led to expect in a new graduate".

"Hard choices must be made, trading depth against breadth and completely rejecting great swaths of material for later study during lifelong learning," Professor Midwinter said. He suggested that final-year students could move between universities to use facilities more suited to their interests, or that project work could be done on company premises as part of a "thin-sandwich" year.

Undergraduate study is also changing, he said, citing the three-year BEng the University of Warwick is developing with Marconi. Students will be full-time Marconi employees and spend just a quarter of their time at the university.

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