On the surface, it was a classic business-to-business survey – a manufacturer asking end-users about product quality and market conditions. But in this case, the "manufacturer" was the Oregon University System's Vice Chancellor for Engineering and Computer Science, the "customers" were business professionals from around the state of Oregon and the "product" was recent engineering, computer science and technology graduates from Oregon's public universities.
On one hand, the client needed to get customer feedback to plan programs and refine curriculum. On the other hand, the customers would be hard to reach and pressed for time.
CFM's conducted an Internet-based survey, and the results were impressive. Almost two thirds of those contacted participated in the survey. Industry professionals gave good grades for graduates' skills in a variety of areas such as teamwork, computational skills, the ability to solve problems and the ability to collect, analyze and report data. However, Oregon's business professionals were less impressed with graduates' oral and written communication skills, their familiarity with new technology and their ability to work in large teams.
Engineering educators stepped up efforts to teach basic business communications skills. In the meantime, the survey gave hope to students. Oregon business professionals confirmed that jobs would be there for graduates in engineering, computer science and technology. Roughly four in ten said their organizations would increase hiring in engineering and technology fields over the next year, and more than half said hiring would remain the same.