Jason Delosrios and Jonathan Torres have no doubt they will land great jobs after they graduate from the University of Central Florida this year.
Both students have impressive resumes thanks to the International Engineering minor they are completing.
Delosrios, of Sunrise, Fla., spent a semester studying engineering in Brazil in 2010 and then accepted a full-time internship as an electrical engineer at a utility company there.
Torres, of Clermont, earned a summer internship in Germany in 2010 thanks to his engineering experience in Spain in 2009.
“When I interviewed for an internship before being placed in the Germany program, I had some potential employers tell me that it really set me apart,” Torres said. “I think the minor really sets you apart, and you need that today to get a good job.”
That’s exactly what UCF engineering professors and industry leaders are saying. Engineering has become transnational, a trend at least a decade in the making. Universities are catching on and are offering programs that expose their students to engineering and cultural practices in other countries. And that’s setting those graduates up for great job offers at a time when many firms are scaling back.
“Engineering science doesn’t change across borders,” said Avelino Gonzalez, a professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science who is leading the International Engineering minor at UCF. “But the practice of engineering does. How people communicate and how they approach a problem — that’s different in every country. Knowing how to work with people and how to approach them, that’s something that studying abroad can really teach our students, and that’s golden for employers.”
Most Fortune 500 engineering firms have a strong global presence and actively recruit employees with international experience.
Jacobs Engineering has 160 offices in 27 countries. Siemens, which has a strong local presence but is based in Germany, employs 405,000 people in 190 countries.
“To be player in today’s fast-paced global business world, you must walk in many different shoes to understand how and why people act like they do,” said Craig A. Weeks, CEO of the Fossil Power Generation Service at Siemens Energy, Inc.
The international experience provides an edge, he added.
Ben Abbott, a corporate fellow at Apopka-based TriQuint Semiconductor, agrees.
“Working overseas had a profound impact on me, “he said. “I’ve since become an eager participant in cooperation with foreign colleagues in both Europe and Asia. This cooperation has yielded significant benefits for myself, those I worked with and my company.”
Launched in 2008, UCF’s international engineering program is modest. The program has official partnerships with 18 universities throughout the world. Just as significantly, dozens of students from those countries visit UCF to learn about American culture and the American way of engineering.
UCF students in the International Engineering program pay their normal tuition and fees. Depending on where they study abroad, they may qualify for a $5,000 stipend through one of three programs made possible thanks to the federal Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).
“The emerging workforce needs to become familiar with the technical, procedural, and cultural elements of international partners and customers,” said Jeff Pridmore, vice president of Technical Operations and Applied Research, at Lockheed Martin Corporation. “UCF’s International Engineering program will better equip engineering students to compete in our changing world.”