This work-in-progress paper will highlight the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Seymour & Esther Padnos College of Engineering & Computing's (PCEC) community engagement and outreach initiatives including programs targeting industry and K-12 school partnerships. Our current avenues for community engagement, recent developments in support of industry partnerships, lessons learned, and opportunities for future expansion will be outlined. The process of creating a communication plan to ensure industry and K-12 partners are aware of the multiple avenues for engagement with the college will also be discussed.
The Padnos College of Engineering & Computing has always deeply valued industry partnerships. Our engineering programs were developed at the request of, and in collaboration with, industry stakeholders in order to bolster the professional workforce in West Michigan. Since conception, our programs have grown strategically in response to the changing needs of local employers. We have worked hard to support the K-12 STEM talent pipeline by fostering students’ interest in engineering and technology careers through summer camps and outreach programs. We are strongly rooted in the local community, working together on innovative methods for student engagement, talent development, and solving problems.
As industry needs and student populations shift over time, PCEC is committed to expanding our employer partnerships and rising to meet changes in demand. To ensure success, five key avenues through which PCEC engages with community partners were identified and a comprehensive communication strategy highlighting opportunities for engagement and support was developed. The five key avenues are: 1) K-12 Pipeline Development, 2) Experiential Education, 3) Applied Research & Development, 4) Talent Recruitment, and 5) Continuous Learning.
Recently, the addition of a new Innovation Design Center with dedicated space for K-12 outreach, industry project work, and applied research and development has inspired us to think creatively about the ways in which we are engaging with industry and the community. While PCEC remains committed to K-12 outreach, talent recruitment, and experiential learning through industry co-op and internships, we are also aware that employers are seeking opportunities to enhance the skills of their current employees in response to rapid technological advances, and that they value the opportunity to leverage university faculty and student expertise in solving industry problems. Subsequently, PCEC has expanded industry engagement through the creation of new applied research and development institutes that support companies in product development, pre-certification testing, rapid prototyping, and application development. PCEC is also working to expand course offerings to be more accommodating of adult learners, professional skillset development, and the need for upskilling that occurs throughout employees’ careers.
Input and feedback from community and industry partners has been central to the development and expansion of our community engagement efforts. We are optimistic about the future growth and infusion of community engagement initiatives into our courses and pedagogy. Together we can build a stronger program, a more relevant curriculum, a robust talent pipeline, and a workforce better prepared to meet the demands and solve the problems of tomorrow.
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