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Surveying Industry Needs for Leadership in Entry-level Engineering Positions

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Assessment of Engineering Leadership Skills

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1447.1 - 26.1447.13



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Paper Authors


Beth Lin Hartmann P.E. Iowa State University

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Beth L. Hartmann is a Lecturer of Construction Engineering at Iowa State University (ISU). A retired U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer (O-5), she currently teaches the design-build capstone course for civil and construction engineering students and the construction engineering learning community. Hartmann received her Bachelor of Art in Architecture and her Master or Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Construction Engineering and Management from ISU in 1989 and 1996, respectively.

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Clinton Stephens Iowa State University

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Dr. Clinton M. Stephens is a lecturer for leadership education with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. Currently, Stephens coordinates the Catt Center’s burgeoning leadership program and teaches classes in leadership development including CLPS 322, “Leadership Styles and Strategies in a Diverse Society.”

Stephens continues his research and dissemination work that focuses on student leadership development, specifically assessing the effectiveness of courses and workshops to develop participants’ leadership skills, directs the overall program and teaches the growing number of students in the program’s core courses.

Stephens completed a B.S. in Business Administration at Kansas State University in 2002, a M.S. in College Student Development at Oklahoma State University in 2005 and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration in 2012 at Iowa State University.

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Charles T. Jahren P.E. Iowa State University

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Charles T. Jahren is the W. A. Klinger Teaching Professor and the Assistant Chair for Construction Engineering in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota and his PhD in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. He has over six years of industrial experience as a bridge construction project engineer for a construction contractor and as a research engineer for the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory in Port Hueneme California. His teaching interests include construction equipment, cost estimating and construction process design. His research interests include highway and heavy construction methods, road maintenance methods, innovations in construction process administration, engineering education, hybrid learning and online learning.

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Surveying industry needs for leadership in entry-level engineering positionsIndustry is expecting engineering students to graduate with both strong technical skills andstrong leadership skills that they can apply in the companies they join.Prior research. Recent research has demonstrated wide-ranging meanings with regard to howcompanies define leadership. Using qualitative research methods in an earlier study, we foundthat personnel from engineering companies involved with hiring define “leadership” bycategorizing it into five main themes or competencies: initiative/confidence, communication,interpersonal interaction, teamwork, and engagement. Initiative/confidence is defined as“stepping up” or “going that extra step” while having or showing confidence. Communication isexplained as displaying proficiency in written, oral, non-verbal, and listening. Interpersonalinteraction means to build healthy relationships by relating to and working with others on a one-on-one basis. Teamwork is described as one’s ability to work in a group, collaborate in a teamsetting, and understand group dynamics. Finally, engagement is defined as development of selfthrough participation in extracurricular and volunteer activities.Methodology. This study extends the prior research by developing and validating a surveyinstrument based on these five themes. The survey contributes to our understanding of theengineering industry’s needs for leadership competencies in their new hires. The prior researcheffort involved interviews of human resources and engineering personnel at six engineeringcompanies. Here, this survey is distributed to over 300 engineering companies to expand ourunderstanding of the industry’s needs.Results. Findings from this survey will inform engineering educators about leadershipcompetencies of which they should focus while better preparing our students to for entry-levelpositions in engineering.Implications. The results of this research can inform the efforts of all engineering educators thatstrive to embed leadership development into the engineering courses. With this researcheducators will know what expectations for leadership skills their students will encounter in theirentry-level positions after graduation. Further, engineering programs will be able to betterarticulate the leadership skills their students are developing and educate potential employers onboth the technical and leadership education their students are gaining in their courses. Finally,employers will benefit from hiring engineering graduates who are better prepared for theleadership expectations in the entry-level positions.

Hartmann, B. L., & Stephens, C., & Jahren, C. T. (2015, June), Surveying Industry Needs for Leadership in Entry-level Engineering Positions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24784

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