Micro-credentials prepare mechanical engineering students to flourish

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
March 06, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In the fall of 2019, the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) began offering micro-credentialing courses as a new way for students to broaden their skillset, tailor their education to prepare for their careers, and stand out to employers.

Leveraging the industry connections forged by the department, experts in topics such as project management and business principles in engineering delivered intensive workshops at Penn State University Park to educate students on a specific topic. The workshops were free to mechanical engineering students and held regularly throughout the semester. 

“The intent of these workshops is to provide our students an opportunity to gain helpful skills outside the classroom that will help them prepare for their careers in industry and allow them to make informed choices on their career paths,” Karen Thole, distinguished professor and ME department head, said.

After completing a rigorous workshop designed to give them a breadth of knowledge on the given topic, the students are tested for their proficiency. When successful, they are awarded a certification badge that can be used on their resumes and other materials to tangibly demonstrate their skill.

The program was recommended by the Mechanical Engineering Education Innovation Committee, whose sole purpose is to find new ways to enhance the curriculum. The topics chosen for the workshop were based upon interviews with recent mechanical engineering graduates from the ME program.

Eric Marsh, the Glenn Professor of Engineering Education and associate head for undergraduate programs, said, “We are excited to continue offering these workshops to our students in the future, with the goal of adding even more impactful skills to their toolbelt.”  

On Jan. 30, students heard from Frank Boyer, a Pratt & Whitney Senior Fellow and Discipline Lead for Project Engineering. He presented a seminar on project management, where students learned how to successfully lead large and sophisticated engineering projects, including how to properly communicate about the project to internal and external sources.

Eric Branyan, retired vice president of Lockheed Martin, shared his perspective on value engineering on Feb. 6 and 7. With his unique perspective, students gained the insight and developed skills to evaluate and influence the elements of product value, using examples like iPhones and Tesla vehicles.

On Feb. 26, students attended a workshop titled, “Business Principles for Engineers.” Led by Monty Alger, professor of chemical engineering, students gained insights into the rapidly changing business landscape, increasingly fueled by digital and engineering innovations.

“If you want to be an engineer, you have to understand calculus,” Alger said. “In the same way, if you want to also work in business, you need to understand the financials.”

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Last Updated March 28, 2019