Qualification Czech Republic: Quo Vadis Engineering Education?
The main goal is to produce people who know how to do new things and not only repeat what was created by previous generations. We need creative, inventive and innovative people. The purpose of education is to add value!
To begin with let us ask whether it is really necessary to change anything in the system of contemporary education. We live in a period of fundamental changes not only in industry and economics but generally in the whole society. Industry and the entire sphere of economics is experiencing fundamental changes due to the introduction of information technologies, combined cybernetic and physical systems and artificial intelligence in production, services and all fields of economy. We can consider this to be the transformation of the whole society, changes of paradigms which seemed to be fully confirmed. We are now experiencing an intense development of technologies, new demands on applied research with correlated requirements on safety, which has a logical impact on the changes on the labor market and consequently on the system of education.
Technologies which affect the future behavior of the whole society are fundamental in the present era. Their intense development from the aspect of the present system of education is rather questionable. If the educational system wants to keep up with the technologies currently implemented in the industry, flexible educational models will have to be available with close interconnection to industry and research centers concerned with the development and application of technological novelties in the industry.
According to a study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which assessed the preparedness of individual countries for the start of Industry 4.0 (based on the level of sophistication of industrial production, degree of automation, innovation intensity and readiness of manpower, accessibility of high speed internet, quality of innovative structures), the Czech Republic is among traditional countries which have a high share of industry but a substandard level of preparedness. Besides the Czech Republic also Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Lithuania belong to this group.
The role of the engineer changes depending on the transformation process of the whole society. The present world needs both specialized experts and (even to a greater extent) experts with multidisciplinary knowledge from not only fields of technology but with knowledge extending into non-technical fields.
We must therefore focus on changes in the educational system which can be set in two time horizons. From the long-term aspect this means to work with a whole generation (or even more generations) of students, i.e. future employees and also teachers. This means to focus on the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, on experimenting and creating, on the support of entrepreneurship, etc. From an intermediate up to a short-term aspect the synergy of the following three basic subjects is of key importance: education, research and development activities and cooperation with industry.
These transformation changes which can be called the fourth industrial (r)evolution will, of course, be reflected by the labor market – and there not only in the workload but also in its organization.