July 2014


Doctoral degree in Industrial Engineering: from theory to practice

Carles Estruch Tena - Civil Engineer, MSc in Computational Mechanics and currently taking a doctorate degree in Industrial Engineering

Following the release of the findings of the fifth survey of the labour market outcomes of graduates from Catalan universities carried out by AQU Catalunya, I'd like to express my opinion regarding this matter from the point of view of my experience following my studies at university. When I entered university, my ambition was to study Civil Engineering at what is now known as BarcelonaTech (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya/UPC), basically because I found the content interesting and, at that time (2002), the job prospects with such a degree were very good. I then went on to take a Master's in Computational Mechanics at the University of Swansea (Wales) and BarcelonaTech/UPC. The panorama since then has changed greatly, as the survey shows, with a decrease in both permanent contracts and salaries. It is possible that, for this reason, only 52% of graduates in this discipline would take the same degree again. In my case, however, I was very lucky because, as a result of work experience during my studies, I found a job just as I was finishing my degree in Civil Engineering.

Doing my final year project, which was based on the construction of an inflatable pedestrian footbridge with Buildair, was an important step for me eighteen months ago and it provided me with the possibility to become one of the first students to take a doctorate degree in Industrial Engineering in Catalonia. My thesis deals with the design and manufacture of a rapid deployment inflatable bridge to re-establish transport communication routes in case of emergencies and other uses, and this is being developed at Buildair, a company that specialises in the design and manufacture of large inflatable structures, where I am head of research, development and innovation. During these three years that I've been with the company I've realised that the training I received during my time studying Engineering at university was too theoretical and there was very little practical work, which is also evident from the findings of the survey. On the other hand, the doctorate degree in Industrial Engineering focuses more on the professional application of concepts learned in collaboration between the university and private enterprise, which is where most engineers end up working.

In connection with the section of the survey on the competences (skills) necessary for getting a good job, I'm broadly in agreement with the ones that are widely considered to be the most important, namely, problem solving, decision-making, teamwork, management skills and oral expression. According to my specific professional experience, these are key competences needed in the day-to-day work of an engineering company. One doesn't learn the majority of these and other key competences when studying for a degree, and you only really start to acquire them at work. In the case of Highway Engineering, I think they basically teach you how to fend for yourself, by which I mean they give you the necessary tools to be able to think and solve problems, but it's your experience on the job where you really apply everything that you have assimilated and ultimately learned. For this reason it's highly recommendable to get practical experience working with companies in the same field as one's degree while you are still studying. As I stressed above, there is very little practical training in a university degree course, and issues like practical work experience need to be encouraged more, and even made compulsory, or at least made easier for students to do as part of a study programme because they lead to better career opportunities later on.

My testimony is that of someone who was a student from the old (pre-Bologna) university system, and I can't really talk about the changes that have taken place in recent years, but I trust that the findings of the next survey that will take in graduates from the new system of education will be more positive.


Generalitat de Catalunya

c/. dels Vergós, 36-42. 08017 Barcelona. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2014 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008