The Jerusalem Post
Afeka College president leads institution’s development
A different type of academic world: ‘You can not ignore the changes that the labor market is undergoing’
The Council for Higher Education has updated its forecast and expects a 25% increase in the number of hi-tech students, The Post spoke about the forecast with President of Afeka College of Engineering Prof. Ami Moyal.
How do you explain the rise in demand for hi-tech studies?
“First, there is a shortage of manpower. According to the latest report of the Innovation Authority, there is currently a shortage of 15,000 engineers and programmers in the Israeli hi-tech industry. Second, the current generation standing at the entrance to the academic world places greater emphasis on its ability to find work and the potential for compensation when it comes time to choose what to study, and they are affected by the high remuneration in the hi-tech market as well as media reports on successes and exits.”
Is academia today, in its present form, training the engineers required for the hi-tech industry?
“First of all, there is a general agreement that the skills required for success in the labor market have changed, and certainly so too have the skills required of engineers in the Israeli hi-tech market, such as multi-disciplinary team work, effective presentation and self-learning. Academia places an emphasis on imparting scientific and engineering knowledge to students, and let us not forget that it has so far qualified the engineers who are at the base of the success of the hi-tech industry. However, in light of the change, a key issue is who is responsible for imparting the skills. There is a reference to this in academia with the understanding that academia can not afford to ignore such significant changes in the employment market, in the form of the engineer and the student profile, which even leads to the question of the relevance of academic studies.
Which characteristics do you identify in the new student as opposed to the one from the past?
“The new generation of students has a more significant orientation to technology, with the ability to work on several tasks at the same time, and in Israel, most of whom are graduates of military service, which also contributed to the development of their skills. The current generation places greater emphasis on ‘what will I get out of academic studies?’, with an emphasis on the ability to find high-paying work. My experience predicts success in the difficult engineering studies: there is desire, passion and perseverance, so you have to build motivation and curiosity in the students and then train excellent engineers who will succeed and contribute to the economy.”
Recently Moyal and the management of Afeka Engineering College visited the leading campuses in the eastern US, including Harvard and MIT, and returned with insights into new models.
You saw what is being done in the US, is it possible to adopt the approaches developed there or are there adjustments that are needed for Israel?
“There is a general agreement among the academic institutions we visited that engineers are required to have essential skills beyond knowledge and that the academy must contribute to providing them to students during their academic studies. There are two main approaches to imparting skills, one in extracurricular enrichment activities, mainly in active involvement in project implementation – and the other in changing the curriculum so that they include specialized courses for imparting skills or changing pedagogy in classrooms, for example, based on project execution and less on a frontal lecture.
“Adjustments are definitely required in Israel, as our students arrive older, after military service, and with other skills. I think there is a need for national thought throughout the educational continuum. The number of students studying five-unit math has doubled, and that’s the main target audience for engineering, so there should be coordination at the national level – which includes the education system, academia and industry – that will lead to lifelong learning.“
What are you doing at Afeka?
“The understanding that there has been a change in the profile of the engineer in the industry, as well as the student who comes to our institution, led us to the conclusion that we need to initiate a transformation in the process of educating the engineers. We conducted a survey of more than 100 hi-tech companies for the required engineering skills and defined the image of the engineer who is a graduate of Afeka. This graduate would have: Scientific and engineering knowledge, personal and engineering skills, values and a broad education. We are now in a process of change that includes updating the curriculum, changing classroom pedagogy, building extracurricular activities and physically changing study and work spaces. All of this is based on a cultural change among the faculty and students that requires change, and which will brings us together, while building the existence of a vibrant academic campus that is experiential and enjoyable – out of a worldview that excellence can only come about when there is curiosity and pleasure. “