FIU sees engineering school loop
Florida International Uni-versity’s College of Engineering and Computing trains its students not just for the hypothetical but specifically for local needs in order to keep graduates working for companies in this area.
Dean Amir Mirmiran said the college keeps up a dialogue with the local community and strives to develop an ecosystem for engineering students starting during the high school years through to when graduates enter the workforce.
“We are proposing to the industry that companies provide internships for high school students as an integration process before they come here for their education,” said Dr. Mirmiran, who is also a professor of civil and environmental engineering at FIU. “When they graduate, the students can go back to the companies and work.”
In an effort to recruit from local high schools and connect them to the industry as soon as possible, engineering students at FIU are going into local high schools, riding in a van funded by Chrysler, to talk about engineering and their experiences in order to interest younger scholars.
“Local companies are seeking our graduates,” Dr. Mirmiran said, pointing to several examples: Stantec has hired many students who trained in civil and environmental engineering as well as infrastructure; Ultimate Software offers internships to FIU engineering students and then hires them full-time when they graduate.
FIU graduates are sought after, Dr. Mirmiran said, both for their skill set and diversity. “We are ranked nationally as first for Hispanic graduates and sixth for African Americans, so companies looking to diversify their workforce are interested in hiring our students.”
He said the College of Engineering and Computing is in a constant dialogue with local companies, asking what they need in employees and then adapting the curriculum for those requirements.
In a few weeks, FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing will hold a forum to talk with the community about how professors and their curriculum can cater to infrastructure and engineering needs, Dr. Mirmiran said.
He said the college is accredited every six years by a non-profit and non-governmental accrediting agency for academic programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.
At all times, Dr. Mirmiran said the college makes sure it is up-to-date for the various disciplines offered to students. “We invest heavily in labs and computer facilities,” he said. “High technology changes rapidly and we make certain our courses are up to industry standards.”
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Beacon Council are very supportive of the quest to create jobs in targeted areas, of which engineering plays an important role, Dr. Mirmiran said.
This year, FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In the past three decades, Dr. Mirmiran said, the college has graduated 20,000 engineers, computer scientists and those in construction management. Last year, the college had the fourth highest total of graduates in the country with a record high 1,000 students in the fields of engineering, computing and construction.
“I’ve seen growth in enrollment continuously over the years, but in the last decade it has been unprecedented,” he said. “We currently have close to 6,000 students in our college.”
Dr. Mirmiran said the specialties seeing the most growth in the past 10 years have been information technology and biomedical, mechanical and electrical engineering.
He attributes the growth in part to the effects of the last economic downturn.
“The last recession sent many of us back to the basics in terms of technology,” Dr. Mirmiran said. “Unemployment among engineering students is not as high [as it is in other fields] during economic downfalls. Graduates have better chances, are offered better jobs particularly in STEM [the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.]”