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M. Chedid, L. Teixeira, M.J. Rosa

University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
The rate of innovation is increasingly accelerating and in the future transformations will be much faster than today. The rapid technological advances have transformed the complex business environment with impact on processes, products and services’ life cycles. New technologies have been impacting organizations and no area of activity will escape from rapid and most of the times quite profound changes.

All of this leads to significant transformations also in the labour market’s requirements for industrial engineers’ graduates’ skills, which furthermore need to be constantly updated. In this paper, the European Commission (EC) definition of skills is followed, which understands it as the broad set of knowledge, abilities and characteristics reflecting an individual performance and behavioural characteristics, which demonstrates if a person is able to perform an assignment properly.

Having the right skills is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. European policy makers (e.g., EC), as well as The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have addressed and supported research projects meant to understand labour market’s skills needs and relate them with those being developed in higher education graduates, trying to overcome a potential skills’ mismatch. As such, higher education institutions (HEI) are becoming more pressed, but also interested, in ensuring that they equip graduates with relevant and up-to-date skills.

In this scenario, a closer collaboration between HEI and industries seems to be of key importance to improve the relevance of higher education curricula and its effective deliver, increasing the opportunities for higher education students to graduate with the skills’ needed to perform well in the labour market. Nevertheless, the existing literature on this subject, namely the one focusing on engineering degree programmes and graduates, usually takes a broad approach to the field and does not bring the industry to the discussion. Furthermore, in the Portuguese context there are no studies discussing which are the skills industrial engineers should acquire in university in order to adequately develop their professional work.

This paper presents the results of a survey administered to teachers and students from the Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) programme of a Portuguese university, and to industry professionals directly working with the programme’s final year students (internship supervisors). The goal is to elicit and compare their views on what are the essential skills for current IEM graduates, namely regarding two aspects. First, to compare teachers, students, and industrial professionals’ opinions regarding the essential set of skills industrial engineers should acquire through higher education. Second, to compare industry professionals' opinion about the essentiality of this set of skills with the way they rate their level of satisfaction with current IEM graduates regarding them.

The paper provides a contribution for knowledge development around IEM skills, and offers insights for their improvement, notably through a closer collaboration between the university and the industry.