The recent global economic downturn brought
sharply into focus the need for engineers that excel not only technically and academically
but also having a multiplicity of transferable skills, flexibility of mind and
resilience. Considerable effort has been focused in UK and internationally on
the development of doctoral students with such mind-sets and skills. At the
Universities of Sheffield & Manchester, the teaching of transferrable
skills in the Doctoral Training Centre for Advanced Metallics is done in the
form of a Diploma in Personal & Professional Skills and such skills are embedded
in the students’ consciousness by practice. The development of Problem Based
Learning experience through a two week long exercise where groups of students
tackle “real-life” problems at an SME has been organized and successfully taken
place over the past two years and students, staff and industrial partners have
all felt the benefits. This work shows the multiplying effect that the SME case
studies have on student skill and attitude development and as a result their employability.
Colleagues will see how the use of “real-life” problem solving can be used to
focus and sharpen the students’ use of transferrable skills that have been
taught in other parts of a structured course. The reality of the situation
faced, the tight time limits afforded, the responsibility to function and
deliver as part of a group of “professional” consultants act as multipliers of
the skills employed towards generating and proposing solutions. Students see in
practice what transferrable skills mean to them and of course employers are
suitably impressed when they see skills they seek from graduates being used to
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