Entrepreneurship Certificates and Minors for Engineers

This is my second post from the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) Winter Conference (first post). The conference is a major component of the Kern Family Foundation's efforts to support an enterprise society through engineering education focused on students building an entrepreneurial mindset. We're now discussing the value and form of concentrations, certificates, and minors focused on entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship for undergraduate engineering students.

Challenges

  • Fitting valuable knowledge into an already overfull engineering degree program. Many schools acknowledge that a minor will require that either the student come in with AP credits that free up some of their time or that the student will stay an extra term. Unique approaches include Villinova's Summer Business Institute, resulting in a business minor.
  • Valuing formal designations (minor, concentration, certificate) of a set of courses. My MBA students are often frantic that they are missing a single course from our concentration on Managing Technology & Innovation. As their advisor, I argue that I've yet to hear a hiring manager say that they care about a formal designation on a transcript -- hiring managers care about how a student is able to present their coursework and resulting knowledge  in terms of how it will support the organization's needs.
  • Partnering across academic units both in terms of faculty scheduling and how the faculty responsibilities are traded across the units (e.g., business schoool/engineering school).
  • Indentifying courses that are absolutely necessary versus nice to haves. We heard from schools where basic finance, marketing, venture planning, and (rarely) management are part of a formal program. Other schools are looking more for language skills -- the ability for engineers to talk to business people, the ability for business people to talk to the engineers. In some cases they find that bringing engineering and business students together for a single ten week project is enough to meet that goal.

 

After a very active 90 minutes we had to move on to other, equally exciting topics -- tinker labs -- but our challenges remain open.

Many of you are hiring managers. What is your advice to students and universities about the importance of formal programs? Should we spend our resources on designing formal programs that can be noted on a transcript, or should students be designing courses that fit their personal career needs and interests?

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