Southeast Missouri State University will launch a new engineering degree program beginning with the fall 2017 semester to help meet workforce demands and offer access to students seeking STEM education opportunities in southeast Missouri.
Last month, the University received approval from the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) to offer a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering in Southeast’s Department of Polytechnic Studies. The CBHE acted after the University’s Board of Regents approved the new program in December 2015.
“Southeast has a long history of delivering engineering-related programs in areas such as Engineering Physics, Engineering Technology, Industrial Technology and Technology Management, in addition to a minor in Engineering Physics and Southeast’s Pre-Engineering Program,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University. “The ability to offer this degree at Southeast will provide access to a high-skill program in a part of Missouri where some students are more place-bound due to financial constraints or familial responsibilities, and where other students are more likely to leave Missouri to pursue their education at schools in neighboring states that are closer than other institutions in Missouri. Perhaps most importantly, this program will help respond to national, state and local workforce needs.”
University officials say the new program will provide much needed access to an affordable engineering program in this part of the state. Outside of this region, the nearest public institutions in Missouri with similar programs are in Rolla and Columbia, Missouri. Southeast can now offer a program closer to home for students in southeast Missouri and at a significant cost savings from Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Commissioner Zora Mulligan at the Missouri Department of Higher Education and her staff for the guidance and feedback they provided us in the development of the Industrial and Systems Engineering program, and we are excited about the opportunity this degree provides Southeast to contribute significantly to the development of the southeast region and beyond,” Vargas said.
For southeast Missouri to continue to compete and prosper, the region must grow and develop a highly skilled and capable STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – workforce, University officials say. Every student in southeast Missouri must have access to quality STEM education so they are prepared to enter the region’s workforce as scientifically literate graduates energized to lead and innovate in emerging and STEM fields.
The need for STEM graduates is profound. According to the National Science Foundation, of higher education degrees conferred in Missouri in 2011, only 22.5 percent were in science and engineering.
State, regional and national surveys have identified engineering fields among the top workplace needs. A Sept. 29, 2016, search of indeed.com for industrial and systems engineering jobs within 100 miles of Cape Girardeau provided ads for 952 positions across a number of industries: operations research; quality engineers; manufacturing engineers; supply chain analytics; warehouse operations; power systems engineers; health care; and industrial sales engineers. This large number demonstrates a need for individuals with a skill set based on education in industrial and systems engineering.
In addition to the indeed.com data, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) includes “industrial engineers” in their top five list for most job openings. Members of Southeast’s Department of Polytechnic Studies Advisory Committee representing the manufacturing, banking, transportation, logistics and health care sectors also have reported the need for industrial and systems engineers in this region.
The field of industrial and system engineering has long been recognized as a prime source of management talent. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, projects a total of 223,300 industrial and systems engineering jobs by 2022 with average median pay of $78,860 a year.
The need is also apparent at the regional level in manufacturing and other employment sectors. That’s why Southeast has taken this important step to strengthen the state and local workforce. The K-12 population in southeast Missouri and larger region is a richly and academically talented pool. University officials believe this new program will give students interested in science and mathematics the opportunity to both pursue an engineering degree and work in the engineering field who may not have otherwise have had the opportunity to do so.
John Mehner, president of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the new program will attract students to Southeast who, without this degree option close to home, might leave Missouri to pursue their education.
“As a key stakeholder in southeast Missouri, I commend Southeast for launching innovative programs like this that will assist the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce in attracting business and industry to the region that are seeking a technically educated workforce.”
Southeast’s new program will train industrial and systems engineers who design, analyze and control complex systems, such as manufacturing systems, global supply chains and service systems in healthcare and the financial sector. Industrial engineering focuses on optimizing systems for maximum efficiency, minimum cost, quality improvement, safety and other interests to systems stakeholders. In essence, they save industries and companies time, money, materials, energy and other resources. This differs from other engineering disciplines that apply skills to specific areas.
“The skills of industrial and systems engineers can be applied in a wide range of areas, and more organizations are recognizing the significance of the industrial and systems engineering profession,” said Dr. Brad Deken, chair of the Department of Polytechnic Studies. “The goal of the program is to get students to understand and then optimize the products, processes, tools and technologies used in industry and other complex systems,” Deken said.
While many jobs in this region for graduates of the program will be in manufacturing and related industries, the skills can be applied in municipalities, transportation and logistics, healthcare and other fields using complex systems, he said. Graduates with this degree will likely have career opportunities as industrial, systems, manufacturing, quality, product/process and plant engineers, as well as engineering analysts.
“Engineering talent is a need in this region,” Deken continued. “Many of the companies attending our career fairs have consistently been recruiting for engineering fields. Companies would prefer to hire engineers from the region, but there are not enough of them. Since we are a regional institution where a majority of students come from our region and a majority of graduates stay in the region, I believe we can build this program to meet the needs of our students and industries in this region.”
Fred Ducharme, senior general manager of Toyoda Gosei, TG Missouri Corp., said Southeast’s new program will attract and develop strong engineering candidates that will stay in and assist with growth in the region.
“TGMO will gain access to valuable engineering talent willing to stay employed in the region,” he said. “This is needed to stabilize our technical foundation for the growth yet to come.”