June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
This paper examines how curricular and co-curricular activities, including coursework, internships and co-ops, and extra-curriculars, influence the transition of engineering graduates from university to the workplace. In particular, it investigates how these activities enable or impede the acquisition of relevant knowledge, skills, and experience and how engineering students draw on these during their transition process. Most research on the school-to-work transition in engineering has focused on the job readiness of graduates [1-2] and their professional socialization in the workplace [3-4]. Few studies have explored the skills and knowledge that students gain in the course of their undergraduate education and the ways in which they utilize these during their job search and workplace adjustment [5-6]. As a result, very little is known about how the knowledge, skills and experiences acquired in university can facilitate the job search; which of these prove to be useful in adjusting to employment, and how they are applied in the workplace .
This paper draws on a larger qualitative multiple case study exploring the university-to-work transition of selected engineering graduates. The study deployed 21 individual semi-structured interviews inquiring about the curricular and co-curricular experiences of these graduates, the usefulness of these experiences during the job search and workplace adjustment stages, and the applicability of the knowledge and skills gained through them to the performance of their jobs. The theoretical framework of the paper is based on Bourdieu’s concept of capital  and Evans and colleagues’ continuum of expansive and restrictive learning . Transition is conceptualized as the period in which engineering students complete their education, secure employment, and undergo workplace socialization [10-11].
The preliminary findings of the study reveal that curricular and co-curricular activities create differing opportunities for acquiring the knowledge, skills and experience that engineering graduates use in their transition to employment. With regards to coursework, the study finds that the extent to which it facilitates the transition and its relevance to the job depend on the strength of the ties between the field of study and the job; the industry sector in which graduates work; the positions and tasks they hold and perform, and the projects they undertake. With regards to internships and co-ops and extra-curriculars, the study finds that they are more conducive than coursework to the development of social skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. Internships and co-ops also facilitate the transition by creating opportunities for clarifying career and educational pathways and building social networks. The study also reveals that engineering graduates with a wide range of curricular and co-curricular experience have an easier and smoother transition process as compared to those with limited experience. Lastly, the study shows that the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and experience through curricular and co-curricular activities is mediated by a variety of personal, institutional, and social factors which need to be considered in the analysis of the transition process, as they can both facilitate and impede it.
1. Ramadi, E., Ramadi, S., & Nasr, K. (2016). Engineering graduates’ skill sets in the MENA region: A gap analysis of industry expectations and satisfaction. European Journal of Engineering Education, 41(1), 34-52. 2. Martin, R., Maytham, B., Case, J., & Fraser, D. (2005). Engineering graduates’ perceptions of how well they were prepared for work in industry. European Journal of Engineering Education, 30(2), 167-180. 3. Korte, R., Brunhaver, S., & Sheppard, S. (2015). (Mis)interpretations of organizational socialization: The expectations and experiences of newcomers and managers. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 26(2), 185-208. 4. Kowtha, N. R. (2011). School-to-work transition and newcomer socialisation: The role of job-related education. Journal of Management and Organization, 17(6), 747-763. 5. Clark, M., Zukas, M., & Lent, N. (2011). Becoming an IT person: Field, habitus and capital in the transition from university to work. Vocations and Learning, 4(2), 133-150. 6. Stiwne, E. E., & Jungert, T. (2010). Engineering students’ experiences of transition from study to work. Journal of Education and Work, 23(5), 417-437. 7. Stevens, R., Johri, A., & O’Connor, K. (2014). Professional Engineering Work. In A. Johri & B. M. Olds (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of engineering education research (pp. 119-137). New York: Cambridge University Press. 8. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York: Greenwood. 9. Evans, K., Hodkinson, P., Rainbird, H., & Unwin, L. (2006). Improving workplace learning. New York: Routledge. 10. Dahlgren, M. A., Hult, H., Dahlgren, L. O., Segerstad, H. H., & Johansson, K. (2006). From senior student to novice worker: Learning trajectories in political science, psychology and mechanical engineering. Studies in Higher Education, 31(5), 569-586. 11. Schoon, I., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2009). Conceptualizing school-to-work transitions in contexts. In I. Schoon & R. K. Silbereisen (Eds.), Transitions from school to work: Globalization, individualization, and patterns of diversity (pp. 3-29). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kovalchuk, S., & Ghali, M., & Klassen, M., & Reeve, D., & Sacks, R. (2017, June), Transitioning from University to Employment in Engineering: The Role of Curricular and Co-curricular Activities Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29043
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015