Talk with IUPUI Department of Engineering Technology Chair Robert Weissbach about why 85% of his program’s graduates stay in Central Indiana, many working in advanced manufacturing and logistics, and the word “connections” will likely be part of the conversation.
Right out of the gate, Weissbach talks about how the program maintains a deep connection to IUPUI’s founding mission of supporting the Central Indiana community and, especially, its nontraditional students. By appealing to Indiana’s non-traditional students – adults returning to school mid-career or as part of a career change, veterans entering a new chapter in their lives, part-time and first-generation students—he says, IUPUI is in a unique position to meet students where they find themselves, whether that is already employed in the region or looking for career opportunities.
In addition, the strong connection to the community helps the department understand the types of workers employers in the area need and what skills are in demand. Industry advisory boards ensure the program remains attuned to local needs and also connects students to opportunities for internships, industry-led initiatives and other experiences that could lead to employment.
These connections have been especially helpful in making sure students emerge from the department’s programs ready to hit the ground running, Weissbach says, and that they are able to address the market’s most pressing needs, particularly in advanced industries like manufacturing where Industry 4.0 demands are expediting change.
“We are very focused on trying to have community partners who want to receive our students because they understand the skills and knowledge they’re getting through our programs,” Weissbach says.
All of these connections allow the various engineering technology programs to support one of IUPUI’s larger missions: attracting a diverse student population. For example, Weissbach notes that the engineering technology programs attract Black students at a much higher rate compared to more “traditional” engineering pathways. This mirrors the national trend, which sees engineering technology enrolling three times more Black students than other engineering programs.
With those kinds of connections working in its favor, IUPUI’s engineering technology department has proven it reliably connects students to local opportunities and local employers to much-needed talent. And, in a reflection of IUPUI’s overall mission, those connections make the community stronger.