June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.1070.1 - 15.1070.11
Professional Skills for the New Economy: Their Place in Graduate Education in Engineering and Engineering Technology
Much has been made in the media of the skills required for the new economy, and the role of professional or “soft” skills in getting and keeping a job. Technical skills alone are no longer sufficient to prepare graduates in engineering and engineering technology for a career. ABET and other accreditation standards acknowledge the role of these skills in engineering and engineering technology education at the undergraduate level, but what is the role of the so-called softer skills in graduate education? This paper will explore the definition of these non-technical skills, recent emphasis in the job market on soft skills for employees, the role of these skills in technical education, and provide some thoughts on how soft skills can be incorporated in graduate education in engineering and engineering technology.
Recently, there has been significant discussion in the media on the skills required for the new economy, and the role of professional or soft skills in getting and keeping a job. In fact, according to one recent research report (discussed extensively below), only 31.5% of four year graduates enter the workforce with excellent professional skills.1 While the research report discusses graduates of four-year institutions and their work skills, this author posits that any identified shortcomings in four-year education can be remedied not only by changing the education in undergraduate education, but also by addressing those employer needs at the graduate level. Without question, technical skills are required in technical professions, but those technical skills alone are no longer sufficient to prepare graduates in engineering and engineering technology for career success. Accreditation standards from such significant bodies as ABET and ATMAE acknowledge the role of professional skills in engineering and engineering technology education at the undergraduate level, but what about graduate education? Should graduate education include professional skills training? In this paper, the author will suggest a broad list of professional skills, explore some recent research from employers on these professional skills for employees, and provide some thoughts on the benefits of professional skills and how these skills can be incorporated in graduate education in engineering and engineering technology. For purposes of this paper, the author will use the terms soft skills, professional skills, and applied skills interchangeably.
The “new economy” is frequently discussed in the media. For the purposes of this paper, the new economy encompasses the work world of Dan Pink’s future, in which creativity, connection and design (often referred to as right brain skills) are as or more important than left brain skills (logic, analysis, and left brain skills).2 Even if you do not subscribe
Colwell, J. (2010, June), Soft Skills For The New Economy: Their Place In Graduate Education In Engineering And Engineering Technology Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15805
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