Complete Engineer Conference Closes Gap between Academics and Career
Posted March 31, 2017 04:00 PM CDT
Fifty University of Nebraska engineering students spent their spring break learning about the non-technical skills of engineering at the Complete Engineer Conference hosted at Union Pacific Center in Omaha.
For most engineering students, advanced collegiate mathematics and science subjects come naturally. What doesn’t come as naturally are the non-technical skills, like presenting to a group, working as a team and communicating effectively.
Building those softer skills was the premise behind the four-day Complete Engineer Conference held at Union Pacific Center in Omaha this spring.
“Non-technical skills are just as important as the technical skills of engineering,” said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman and CEO, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Bucknell University.
In addition to Fritz, 50 University of Nebraska engineering students heard from Union Pacific’s Eric Butler, executive vice president and Chief Administrative Officer; Phil Danner, assistant vice president of Engineering – Planning and Material; and Jan Stukenholtz, manager of Talent Development. Additional presenters were from University of Nebraska.
Students, who were on their spring break, were introduced to Union Pacific’s culture, mission and values and got a look at the company’s operations first-hand by touring the Harriman Dispatching Center and a nearby rail yard.
The conference ended with students putting their newfound non-technical skills to work, teaming up to solve one of the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges, including ways to provide access to clean water, secure cyberspace or prevent nuclear terror. Students presented their solutions to the University of Nebraska College of Engineering, Union Pacific representatives and conference attendees.
“This conference was a great opportunity to develop soft skills that we wouldn’t learn in a classroom,” said Sarah Wangler, mechanical engineering junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. “It's important to be able to communicate your ideas because if you have a solution, but can’t communicate it with the right people effectively, it’ll never go anywhere.”
For Wangler, the conference validated her aspirations to work in engineering management.
“The business-oriented presentations spoke to me and the fact that a lot of Union Pacific’s executives started in engineering resonated,” she said. "I’d love to get the hands-on, engineering contact in the beginning of my career and work my way up later to focus on the bigger picture.”
University of Nebraska – Lincoln mechanical engineering freshman Mohamed Ali said the conference made him feel like Union Pacific’s leaders cared about his generation of future engineers.
“I’ve always felt like becoming an engineer has been my calling,” Ali said. “The skills we learned at this conference are things we’re going to be able to take with us through our careers. It went beyond critical thinking and problem solving, and focused on leading and how things get done in real life. It will help make us successful as professionals.”