Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Ensuring engineering program graduates possess the skillset sought by employers is critical to the success of colleges and universities offering these degrees. Accrediting bodies are demanding that engineering programs better integrate professional skills in their curriculum. The IET Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP) requires academic programs to include non-technical competencies such as working with information ambiguity, communication, innovation, project management, teamwork, and ethics (AHEP, 2014). The American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) want graduates from engineering programs to possess both technical and non-technical skills (Dukhan and Rayess, 2014). A study of engineering graduates’ perspectives on the importance of various ABET technical and non-technical competencies, found the non-technical skills of working in teams, data analysis, problem solving, and communication were critical to graduates’ professional success (Passow, 2012).
Missing from extant literature is a comprehensive understanding of which competencies make up the broad classification generically known as “professional” or “non-technical skills.” To address this gap, the authors undertake a rigorous literature review to develop a complete list of the competencies that comprise professional skills (e.g. Ahn et al., 2014; Borrego et al., 2013; Colby & Sullivan, 2008; Johnson et al., 2015; Ling, 2002).
The 51 competencies identified from the literature are then validated using a database of online employment advertisements seeking engineers. The dataset of job advertisements includes professional opportunities across engineering disciplines. The rigorous methodology of Software-Assisted Content Analysis is used to identify professional skills required of engineering job applicants.
Results affirm that employers want engineering graduates to possess a portfolio of professional skills. Job advertisements predominantly required multiple professional skills. Furthermore, results show a positive relationship between the years of experience and number of professional skills required. Results also validate the literature-based list of professional skills, with 65% of those professional skills found in the job advertisements.
This study supports that employers seeking to fill engineering positions are requiring a wide range of professional skills, suggesting that the breadth of professional skills needed by engineering program graduates is much greater than what is currently required by accrediting bodies and addressed in most engineering curriculum.
AHEP, Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes, third edition (2014), The Institute of Engineering and Technology. Retrieved 28 March, 2016, from http://www.theiet.org/academics/accreditation/policy-guidance/ahep3.cfm?type=pdf
Ahn, B., Cox, M. F., London, J., Cekic, O., and Zhu, J. (2014), “Creating an instrument to measure leadership, change, and synthesis in engineering undergraduates”, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 103 No. 1, pp. 115-136.
Borrego, M. Karlin, J., McNair, L., and Beddoes, K. (2013), “Team effectiveness theory from industrial and organizational psychology applied to engineering student project teams: a research review”, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 102 No. 4, pp. 472-512.
Colby, A. and Sullivan, W. (2008). “Ethics teaching in undergraduate engineering education”, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 97 No. 3, pp. 327-338.
Dukhan, N., and Rayess, N. (2014, July). “On teaching non-technical skills for the engineers of 2020”, In QScience Proceedings (World Congress on Engineering Education 2013) (p. 9). Qatar: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals.
Johnson, E. C., Robbins, B. A., & Loui, M. C. (2015). “What Do Students Experience as Peer Leaders of Learning Teams?”, Advances in Engineering Education, Vol. 4 No. 4, n4.
Ling, Y. (2002), “Model for predicting performance of architects and engineers”, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol. 128 No. 5, pp. 446-455.
Passow, H. (2012), “Which ABET competencies do engineering graduates find most important in their work?”, Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 101 No. 1, pp. 95-118.
Graham, R., & Porterfield, T. (2018, June), Preparing Today’s Engineering Graduate: An Empirical Study of Professional Skills Required by Employers Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30887
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