Washington State University has begun several new programs in software engineering, construction engineering, data analytics, and electrical engineering to meet high demand for engineers and computer scientists in the state.
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The programs continue the state’s efforts to educate more engineers and computer scientists to meet industry needs. In 2011, a Washington Technology Alliance report found that while the state employs the highest percentage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers per capita in the nation, it was near the bottom among the states in graduating students in STEM fields. To meet the demand, WSU’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture has increased its undergraduate enrollment by 65 percent to more than 4,500 students in the past seven years. The college also started engineering programs at Olympic College and WSU North Puget Sound.
Meanwhile, with the continual increase in data generation and capture, businesses across the Pacific Northwest and beyond have a growing need for skilled professionals who can apply sophisticated data science techniques to address specific industry needs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, data-related employment opportunities are expected to rise dramatically over the next decade. Additionally, the 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey found data analytics was the highest priority for two years in a row and almost 40 percent of information technology leaders are unable to meet their data workforce needs.
High demand in the heavy construction industry was also the impetus behind the new construction engineering program. More than 150 construction and engineering contractors on the West Coast are providing support for the new program.
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The new degrees will promote significant enrollment growth, while offering them in Everett and Bremerton will remove the barriers to higher education often encountered by place-bound and non-traditional students.
The software engineering programs (bachelor’s and master’s) will prepare students for developing and maintaining large and complex software with advanced courses in software development, testing and validation, maintenance, security and management and integration – all specialties of high demand among the state’s computing and IT industries. Bremerton’s electrical engineering program will train students in the design, research, testing, development and manufacturing of electronic systems and equipment, with specializations in general electrical or power engineering.
Students who study construction engineering will be trained in heavy infrastructure design, building design and construction technology. They will take core engineering courses as well as courses in heavy/civil construction administration; heavy/civil estimating; earthwork and equipment; human factors/ management; delivery systems; and planning and scheduling. Graduates will be able to enter the contracting industry and obtain a professional engineer license.
Meanwhile, the data analytics degree, one of only two such programs at a research university in the U.S., will be an interdisciplinary degree focused on data analysis and application. The curriculum includes hands-on experience managing and analyzing real industry datasets to solve problems, guide decision-making and make predictions. Partnerships with industry leaders will provide critical insights into the rapid evolution of big data in the workplace.
The Everett and Bremerton programs include a combination of local and Pullman-based faculty with courses originating at the local and Pullman locations. Students follow WSU’s semester system and pay WSU tuition.