‘Curricula Must Become More ‘Multidisciplinary’

‘Curricula Must Become More ‘Multidisciplinary’

George Church
George Church
Senior Vice President
Bentley Systems

Since infrastructure professions are
fundamentally multidisciplinary in
nature, educational curricula that
include interdisciplinary study and
projects will help better prepare
students for industry workflows
and integrated projects, says
George Church, Senior Vice
President, Bentley Systems

Do you think GIS courses in universities are in
sync with the industry’s requirements?

I suspect that they are not generally in sync.
Educators often focus on the theoretical concepts
and principles of their infrastructure disciplines — and not as
much on the development of technology skills. As a result,
students tend to graduate without the full skill-set employers
look for in those joining the workforce, such as real-world
experience using industry-leading software. Many employers
believe that software training should be more integrated into
the GIS curricula in order to better prepare the next-generation
workforce. Giving college students more training on the
software they will need to be successful in their careers will
certainly add to their job-readiness upon graduation. It will
also help the hiring firms, as the team members they recruit
right out of school will be able to become productive faster.

What are the key capabilities you look for in potential
candidates? How do you train them to fit into your line
of work?

As you would expect, Bentley’s university recruitment programme
puts special emphasis on the hiring of new software
developers. But candidates are not only evaluated in terms of
their software skills; we also look for training in and knowledge
of specific industries that can complement a candidate’s
software acumen. For example, a software developer
with a GIS-related degree often will be more valuable to our
geospatial product development team than one with solely a
computer science degree.

But looking at your question from a broader industry
perspective, the architectural, engineering, construction, and
owner-operator organisations — large and small — that use
our software to help them sustain infrastructure around the
world tell us that they seek new recruits with not only the
right disciplinary knowledge, but also experience in applying
software technology to optimise projects. Since it can
be difficult to find recruits with the latter, they often must
provide new hires with extensive software training — just to
get them up to a basic level of proficiency with the tools they
will need for their work. As a result, these organisations are
always looking to decrease the learning ramp-up time so that
new hires can be more effective right out of the starting gate.

Do you interact with educational institutions to upgrade
their curricula?

We regularly engage with educational institutions and
are always glad to help them upgrade their curricula by
integrating our software to help students become job-ready.
User-friendly access to our technology is offered via Bentley’s
Academic SELECT Subscription, which provides academic
institutions with a comprehensive software portfolio,
including access to free software and on-demand training on
students’ and educators’ personal computers. These benefits,
along with training transcripts (to showcase technical
expertise to potential employers) support educators’ efforts
to provide students with hands-on experience with the same
software used by infrastructure professionals worldwide.

The STUDENTserver portal offers students free and open access to more
than 50 software applications.

To further facilitate collaboration and optimise the integration
of our software into curricula, Bentley has implemented
its Adopt-a-School Program. This innovative initiative
is designed to forge partnerships among industry leaders,
academic institutions, and Bentley to help ensure that there
is a constant supply of job-ready graduates for hire. In the
Adopt-a-School Program, all partners play critical roles.

  • Industry members contribute their real-world project
    expertise and curriculum assessments.
  • Academic institutions provide teaching resources and
    connections with their students.
  • Bentley matches the resource investments from the
    industry and schools, and provides academic programmes
    that include software, technical training, and curriculum
    development support.

Alliances under the Adopt-a-School Program provide
students and educators with first-hand experience interacting
in infrastructure industries, while industry leaders gain a
steady stream of young graduates who are better prepared to
join the workforce. In addition, educators are encouraged to
participate in Bentley’s online communities and attend Bentley
LEARNing conferences, enabling interactions with users
and industry leaders.

Bentley does not recruit GIS students per se, but students
attending schools that participate in Bentley’s Academic
SELECT Subscription have access to Bentley software
and a broad range of on-demand training via Bentley’s
STUDENTserver. STUDENTserver offers students free access
to more than 50 software applications across infrastructure
disciplines, personal subscriptions that include 24/7 access
to on-demand training, and access to training transcripts
to send to educators and prospective employers.

In addition, via the Adopt-a-School Program, industry
leaders advise academic institutions about the specific
technical knowledge and skills needed to perform job tasks.
Bentley also engages with the schools to effectively integrate
technology into their curricula. Infrastructure professionals
join Bentley in lending expertise to student chapters of professional
associations to support the students’ participation
in competitions and other national-level activities. Industry
members connect with schools to organise career days and
invite local students to learn more about companies in the
field and career options.

There is a feeling that GIS graduates do not get the
respect or value they deserve when working in vertical
industries. That is because they don’t have the domain
knowledge of that industry — say construction or banking
– and are often sidelined in a GIS division where
their job is reduced to doing data entry. How can this
issue be addressed?

As the industry embraces the concepts of BIM and focuses
more on the lifecycle of engineered assets, professionals in
the business of GIS will become more integrated into other
business processes. The best thing a GIS professional can
do is to keep abreast of trends in BIM and get as much of
an education as possible in the disciplines that make up this
new, fast-evolving arena.

Do you think that university courses should become
more multidisciplinary? What would be an ideal
course content for disciplines like geography, computer
engineering, IT, and business administration specific to
the geospatial industry?

Curricula must become more multidisciplinary in order
to better serve students in their pursuit of careers upon
graduation. The infrastructure professions are, fundamentally,
multidisciplinary in nature. Therefore, educational curricula
that include interdisciplinary study and projects will help
better prepare students for industry workflows and integrated
projects. From my perspective, given the pervasiveness
and stature of software in today’s world, the ideal content
for courses of any type — whether geography, computer
engineering, IT, or business administration, and whether
geospatial-focussed or otherwise – would always include the
study of the software relevant to those domains.