NEW SCHOOL APPROACH: Web designer Maya Johnson with Astonish co-worker Ryan Kanner. Johnson, 24, of Providence, earned a degree from JWU last year in graphic design and digital media.
PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
When Wil Hall graduates from Johnson & Wales University’s School of Engineering & Design in May, he has a job waiting at Modo Labs he’ll be familiar with – he is already interning in the position part time.
Hall, 21, is one of a growing number of students developing cutting-edge skills at a JWU school that has redefined itself. Formerly the School of Technology, the School of Engineering & Design has been renamed to reflect its strengths in not only computer-aided design but also in electronic, robotic, network and software engineering, as well as graphic design and digital media, said the school’s dean, Frank Tweedie.
“We’re looking to refine ourselves to be a lot more about the higher-level skill sets as opposed to technology, which is very broad,” said Tweedie. “We felt that name encompassed where we were headed. A lot of the change is driven by where the industry is going.”
Nationally, double-digit growth is expected in computer science, network and software engineering jobs over the next decade, Tweedie said. In design, job growth is already 13-15 percent above where it was in 2008, he said.
“The university has a Centennial strategic plan and the changes in the school meet the needs of that plan to provide excellence in curriculum, faculty and student experience and deliver programs that meet the needs of industry moving forward,” Tweedie said.
The seven degrees the school encompasses include information science; electrical engineering; robotic engineering technology; network engineering; software engineering; engineering design and configuration management; and graphic design and digital media.
Part of the changes includes making some of the degree programs full four-year bachelor’s degrees instead of “2+2” programs where an associate degree is earned in the first two years, and can be developed into a four-year degree, Tweedie said.
“The skill sets of students going out with an associate degree are not at the higher-level industry is looking for,” he said.
The students that graduate from this school are among the highest-paid graduates of JWU, Tweedie said. The school graduates about 120 students a year. The job-placement rate is always in the mid-90s and about five years ago was 100 percent, he added.
The school is also starting students in internships or experiential-learning projects as early as their sophomore year, he added, because employers are looking for the experience, familiarity and soft skills that come with internships.