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Title: Adapting an NSF-Funded Professional Skills Curriculum to Train Engineers in Industry: A Case Study
This design-focused practice paper presents a case study describing how a training program developed for academic contexts was adapted for use with engineers working in industry. The underlying curriculum is from the NSF-funded CyberAmbassadors program, which developed training in communication, teamwork and leadership skills for participants from academic and research settings. For the case study described here, one module from the CyberAmbassadors project was adapted for engineers working in private industry: “Teaming Up: Effective Group and Meeting Management.” The key objectives were to increase knowledge and practical skills within the company’s engineering organization, focusing specifically on time management as it relates to project and product delivery. We were also interested in examining the results of translating curricula designed for an academic setting into a corporate setting. Training participants were all from the dedicated engineering department of a US-based location of an international company that provides financial services. The original curriculum was designed for live, in-person training, but was adapted for virtual delivery after the company adopted a 100% remote workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The training was conducted in four phases: (1) train-the-trainer to create internal evangelists; (2) train management to build buy-in and provide sponsorship; (3) phased rollout more » of training to individual members of the engineering department, contemporaneous with (4) specific and intentional opportunities to apply the skills in normal business activities including Joint Architecture Design (JAD) sessions. Effectiveness was measured through surveys at the engineering management level (before, during, and after training), and through direct discussions with engineering teams who were tracked for four weeks after the training. A number of cultural shifts within the company were observed as direct and indirect outcomes of this training. These include the creation and standardization of a template for meeting agendas; a “grassroots” effort to spread the knowledge and best practices from trained individuals to untrained individuals through informal, peer-to-peer interactions; individuals at varying levels of company hierarchy publicly expressing that they would not attend meetings unless an appropriate agenda was provided in advance; and requests for additional training by management who wanted to increase performance in their employees. As a result of this adaptation from academic to industry training contexts, several key curricular innovations were added back to the original CyberAmbassadors corpus. Examples include a reinterpretation of the separate-but-equal leadership roles within meetings, and the elevation of timekeeper to a controlling leadership role within a meeting. This case study offers valuable lessons on translating training from academic/research settings to industry, including a description of how the “business case” was developed in order to gain approval for the training and sponsorship from management. Future work includes adapting additional material from the CyberAmbassadors program for applications in a business context, and the continued formal and informal propagation of the current material within the company. « less
Authors:
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1730137
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10298247
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the 2021 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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