June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.821.1 - 13.821.8
JOINING THE WORKFORCE: STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR READINESS FOR NON-TECHNICAL SKILLS
Albert Lozano-Nieto, PhD The Pennsylvania State University Commonwealth College Wilkes-Barre Campus P.O. Box PSU Lehman, PA 18627 Phone: (570) 675-9245 email: AXL17@psu.edu
In the past, engineering and engineering technology schools had an almost exclusive emphasis on the technical contents of their programs, giving the students the necessary background and tools to ensure their technical performance. At that time, these programs put a minimal emphasis on what was known as “soft skills”. These education deficiencies were corrected mainly through feedback from employers and by the accreditation criteria from ABET. The traditional accreditation criteria started addressing these issues and the current TC2K criteria from TAC of ABET has stressed the emphasis on the abilities of graduates to communicate, work in teams, understand and value lifelong learning and ethical issues, thus helping to close the gap between the student’s preparation at graduation and “the real world”. Furthermore, colleges and universities have intensified their student support services, offering workshops and similar activities for students to learn how to write resumes, dress appropriately for a job interview, etc.
However, the students that we graduate are still generally highly unprepared for “the real world” although there is little more than just anecdotal evidence on this issue. This is mainly based on comments from employers and on graduates discussing with a faculty member who they trust an employment offer extended to them. Our graduates may be proficient in technical issues, may have the abilities to communicate, work in teams and understand but they are still lagging behind in those areas that can be seen as the bridge between the technical realm and operating in today’s society.
To evaluate how students perceive their own abilities and deficiencies, the senior class in a BSEET program was asked to respond to an anonymous survey. This survey was designed to measure how students view themselves in those particular areas, necessary to function in society but not taught in school or addressed by student support services. The paper presents and discusses in detail the results obtained as well as steps to take in order to improve the knowledge of our students on these issues at the time of graduation. By doing this, we will enhance the integral approach to the education of the students who choose come to our institutions. It is necessary to point out that because of the small sample, the conclusions drawn should be considered with caution at this point until we have a more reliable sample.
One of the goals for institutions of higher education is to produce highly skilled and qualified graduates to serve the profession and the society. Engineering technology programs try to accomplish this goal by combining technical expertise and knowledge with a well rounded education that will enable graduates to function in today’s complex world. This duality has long been recognized by our accrediting organization, TAC of ABET, that has played a critical role in adapting engineering technology programs to today’s reality. Furthermore, part of the current
Lozano, A. (2008, June), Joining The Workforce: Student Perceptions Of Their Readiness In Non Technical Skills Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3257
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