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’

- • Jerusalem Post Staff

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. “

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel