“industry ready” - that's the key today, really, isn't it. So many new grads just can't get a job because of that awful catch 22 of "no job experience, no job." Any college that can get itself a reputation as a place where kids not only learn, but actually DO, is really doing their graduates a huge favor. I'd take that over a prestigious name any day.
What these programs have in common is making students "industry ready" by providing them opportunities to do real engineering work, as part of a team, before graduation.
For students attending schools that don't have programs like these, summer internships can provide a similar real-life work experience. Internships are a win-win for both parties. Students get essential work experience in their field and employers get to "try before buy" when making hiring decisions about offering full-time employment to new grads.
A generation ago, co-op or internship work experience was a nice-to-have. I think today it is mandatory. New graduates who have nothing more than the degree -- no matter how high their GPA or how prestigious their university -- are at a significant disadvantage relative to their peers, most of whom will have these co-op or internship work experiences on their resumes.
Maybe it's a good thing to have students get this "real world" experience, either as part of the course work, or as summer jobs. Maybe it looks good on their resume, looking for that first job.
But to be honest, when I was going to school, this sort of activity always made me feel like I was wasting precious time. It got me late in doing what I should have been doing, homework assignments, labs and lab reports, studying for that blasted exam. And it felt like I had to waste this time to fulfill some silly requirement.
Maybe just a personality thing. Even now, I am obsessive about feeling like I'm on top of what I'm responsbile for. And I hate to spend time on what I consider useless distractions, to fulfill some arbitrary requirement imposed on us for the sake of some image thing.
By the way, Sylvie, doing has always been part of an engineering curriculum. That's why engineering courses include such a large number of lab courses (like two lab courses per semester is common, which adds a whole lot of work for each of those courses). There's plenty of actual "doing" involved, even if the layman might not appreciate that.
So yeah, the universities make this more obvious now. I'm not really sure this helps, aside from image.