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Board 40: Understanding Industry’s Expectations of Engineering Communication Skills

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lilian Maria de Souza Almeida Utah State University

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Dr. Lilian Almeida is a Ph.D. Research Assistant at Utah State University.

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Kurt Henry Becker Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Kurt Becker is the current director for the Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER) which examines innovative and effective engineering education practices as well as classroom technologies that advance learning and teaching in engineering. He is also working on National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects exploring engineering design thinking. His areas of research include engineering design thinking, adult learning cognition, engineering education professional development and technical training. He has extensive international experience working on technical training and engineering educaton projects funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and U.S. Department of Labor, USAID. Countries where he has worked include Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Thailand. In addition, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses for the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University.

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Idalis Villanueva Alarcón Utah State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Villanueva is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Education Department and an Adjunct Professor in the Bioengineering Department in Utah State University. Her multiple roles as an engineer, engineering educator, engineering educational researcher, and professional development mentor for underrepresented populations has aided her in the design and integration of educational and physiological technologies to research 'best practices' for student professional development and training. In addition, she is developing methodologies around hidden curriculum, academic emotions and physiology, and engineering makerspaces.

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The importance of communication in the engineering profession is widely acknowledged by various stakeholders, including industry, academia, practicing engineers, and engineering students. Even though alternative strategies to help students improve their ability to communicate professionally have already been in practice in engineering programs across the country, research indicates a dissatisfaction of employers when it comes to the performance of engineers as communicators in the workplace. This perspective suggests that efforts to improve students’ communication skills in the universities may be inconsistent with the workplace’s needs, revealing an apparent gap between what has been taught and what is expected from engineering professionals. This gap provides an opportunity for additional research on identifying the specific communication skills required for engineers to succeed in the workplace. Particularly, the requirements of industry concerning engineers’ communication skills need to be understood more deeply, so that new educational interventions may be carefully tailored according to employers’ expectations and that both communication and engineering faculty can revisit their strategies to teach students to become better communicators. In order to obtain a deeper understanding of industry’s expectations concerning engineering communication skills, a qualitative research study was implemented to provide a detailed description of the communication skills practicing engineers need while working in industry. The exclusive focus on industry was pursued through the development of case studies. Based on information collected from multiple sources, four industrial segments (high-Tech, automotive, aerospace, and manufacturing) that employ a significant percentage of engineers in the U.S. were selected. Data collection included qualitative interviews with engineers in leadership positions. The results revealed that: 1) oral communication is prevalent in the engineering profession; 2) engineers need to tailor their messages to multiple audiences and to select the most appropriate type of medium; 3) written communication is expected to be clear, concise, and precise; 4) global communication is an increasingly demanded requirement to work in industry.

de Souza Almeida, L. M., & Becker, K. H., & Villanueva Alarcón, I. (2019, June), Board 40: Understanding Industry’s Expectations of Engineering Communication Skills Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32343

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