University of Santo Tomas Office of the QS/THE Rankings Deputy Director Engr. Nestor R. Ong discussed the readiness of engineering graduates for the global workforce as a panel speaker on March 7, 2023 during the 13th IEOM Society International Conference held at the Manila Hilton Ballroom, Manila from March 6 to 9, 2023.
Ong delivered a 20-minute presentation titled, “Challenges of Engineering Graduates Facing the Current and Impending Global Economy” with the main theme: “To Reduce the Readiness Gap – Engineering Focus.” In his discussion, he included some pointers that put together his decades-long experiences from the academe and the manufacturing industry.
The 13th IEOM Society International Conference was a unique conference that provided a forum for academics, researchers, and practitioners from various industries and institutions to exchange ideas and share recent developments in the field of industrial engineering and operations management. One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by 38 speakers from eight panels on topics such as Global Engineering Education (GEE), Industry 4.0, Diversity and Inclusion Panel sponsored by Ford Motor Company, Women in Industry and Academia, Industry Solutions, Lean Six Sigma, Human Factors, and Global Supply Chain Management (GSCM).
In the same conference, Ong’s Undergraduate Research advisory group was named as the first winner of the Undergraduate Research Competition (Onsite) during the Competition Winner Ceremony conducted via Zoom. The research was titled ID 670 “Use of Taguchi Method-Based Design of Experiments (DOE) in the Optimization of the Drilling Parameters of Structural A572 Steel.” The IEOM received 700 papers/abstracts from 53 countries, and after a thorough peer review process, approximately 450 were accepted. The program included many cutting-edge topics in industrial engineering and operations management. It is noteworthy that UST IE emerges in the most number of winning research presentations per track.
The conference tackled Global Engineering Education (GEE) issues acknowledging the fact that there are different levels of preparedness among engineering graduates from the different parts of the world. One of the main themes discussed was how to reduce the readiness gap of engineering graduates worldwide. Special focus was given to graduates of Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering including Engineering Management.
In his presentation Ong explained that, “The challenge (faced by HEIs) is the need to focus on delivering more graduates in areas of industry and community priority, and work more closely with industry to ensure graduates have the job ready skills and experience they will need in a challenging labor market.” Ong emphasized that “The gap between the HEIs and the job market lies in the skills and technological know-how where HEIs need to learn, be updated on, and be trained for (for its graduates) to be job ready.” This, he emphasized, is more prevalent in the engineering and technology labor market, where the gap grows with advancement of technology. Most universities, he said, are conventional, thus, the new advancement is not adapted and assimilated in parallel with the technology dynamics.
For graduates to be job ready, Ong highlighted the need for undergraduate internship, preferably when the students are on their third year level. “The ‘job ready graduate’ elements, according to Ong must be incorporated into the various phases of the students’ academic experience to create the needed readiness impact.” He also detailed the responsibilities of the university, government, and industry.
Ong discussed and explained the key objectives that deal with this reform package built on five key principles such as Agility, Focus, Innovativeness, Informed, and Efficiency for job ready graduates. He added the three main dimensions on which HEIs and labor market rests: 1) knowledge and skills that HEI transfers to graduates that the latter feed back into the labor market, 2) legitimization of credentials that serve as signifiers to employers and enable them to ‘screen’ prospective future employees, and 3) enrichment of personal and cultural attributes, known as ‘personality.’ However, these three inter-linkages have become increasingly problematic.
Ong likewise expounded why it is difficult for HEIs to integrate and fill the gaps citing the following as expressed by educators: lack of time, lack of resources, and lack of expertise.
Most hiring managers, according to Ong, believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact the types of skills their companies need. Discussing Education Industry 4.0, he explained why educational institutions need curriculum 4.0, and how educational institutions can prepare students for Education 4.0 and build students’ digital skills. He emphasized the need to align industry requirements with education.
In the final part of his presentation, Ong highlighted the achievements of the UST Faculty of Engineering in terms of local and international accreditations and how it relates to the rankings and ratings of the University.
UST IE Department Laboratory supervisor and full-time faculty member Engr. Yoshiki Kurata, PhD, CIE, was also a panel speaker on Human Factors. Ong, a sought-after speaker, recently served as a panel discussant and conference plenary speaker at the Philippine Normal University Quality Assurance Forum and at the UST Simbahayan Bartolome de las Casas Research Conference 2023.