Preparing Graduates for a Successful Career Through Academic-Industry Partnership

Published by on Nov 08, 2018, 02:24 am

When Patrick Ng Li Sheng began searching for a university, he knew he wanted one thing above all else: To secure a good job when he graduated. Sounds simple, right? Something every university promises. Except institutions of higher education are not on the same footing when it comes to preparing students for the working world. According to a study by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia: 

Every year, more than 200,000 students graduate from institutions of higher learning. Surprisingly, 1 out of 5 graduates remain unemployed, with the majority being degree holders. These graduates make up 35 per cent of those who are unemployed.

Patrick Ng Li Sheng

Determined not to become a grim statistic, Patrick did his research, seeking advice from school counsellors, attending education fairs and open days, and reading reviews from university graduates who were able to secure jobs after graduation.

He eventually decided to study mechanical engineering at the University of Southampton Malaysia (UoSM), a foreign branch campus of the University of Southampton (UoS). He heard that the University offers engineering programmes and collaborates directly with employers to enhance their curriculum and job training opportunities.

For instance, UoS has Dyson among its numerous affiliated companies. This relationship extends across the University’s student experience and development initiatives and encompasses collaboration on many aspects of the University’s education and research programmes. The company actively recruits graduates from top research universities, including Southampton.

Dyson is a world-leading IT company that designs and manufactures household appliances. Its technology centre is in the UK while most of its production is done in Malaysia and Singapore. Just recently, Dyson announced that it would set up its electric vehicle factory in Singapore.

‘Collaborations such as these are important for universities as this helps us tailor our course programmes to industry needs and prepare students for the workforce and setting them up for a successful career,’’ said Professor Neil Stephen, UoSM’s Head of Academic Affairs.

After spending 2 years in Southampton Malaysia and followed by 2 years in the UK campus, Patrick graduated with a MEng in Mechanical Engineering with Mechatronics as a specialisation. He then joined Dyson Manufacturing in January 2018.

He said that, ‘Many of the key areas taught on my programme, such as engineering design, materials, and project management, are used daily in my role at Dyson. Southampton’s programme has a good balance of theoretical and hands-on project work to prepare graduates for work in a professional environment.’’

As a Dyson graduate engineer, Patrick designs and builds automated test rigs for various uses including product testing. He begins with the design on pen and paper and then builds this using CAD. This involves a lot of mechanical design considerations and choosing the correct components. At the same time, he also chooses electrical components that need to be added and factors this into the design. Next, he designs the electrical circuit. Once all the designs have been planned and the parts have been received, he builds and assembles the physical components and electronics.

‘What I like most about my job is that I get to design and build something from scratch. Creativity also pays off as I have some freedom in designing my structure. It is also interesting because it is challenging and it is very hands on with all the assembly that is required. My job is not all about office work. It’s about creating a better solution by understanding the needs and challenges of our clients rather than just staring at a computer screen all day,’’ explained Patrick.

Back at the University of Southampton Malaysia, from foundation year level students are encouraged take summer internships and undertake design projects to help build their resume. The upside? ’'Students feel more prepared to tackle the job market than many students do their age,’’ observed Prof. Stephen.

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