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Work In Progress: Investigating the Experiences that Develop Competence for Newly Hired Engineers in an Electric Power Company

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Postgraduate Pathways and Experiences

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Russell Korte George Washington University

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Russell Korte is an Associate Professor of Human and Organizational Learning at The George Washington University. Korte studies the socio-cultural systems in the professions and organizations, along with the effects of these systems on learning and performance in school, business, and industry. This work specifically focuses on the professional socialization of engineering students, faculty, practicing engineers, and medical students, as well as the entrepreneurial efforts of innovators to change organizations. Prior to GWU, Korte was at Colorado State University. Before that, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign he helped design and implement an innovative first year engineering program. Additional research interests include theory, philosophy, social science, workplace learning and performance, entrepreneurship, socialization, professional education, and organization studies.

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Saniya Leblanc George Washington University

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Dr. Saniya LeBlanc obtained a PhD in mechanical engineering with a minor in materials science at Stanford University. She earned her BS with highest honors from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master's of Philosophy in Engineering from Cambridge University as a Churchill Scholar. Dr. LeBlanc has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Sandia National Labs, and Stanford's Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence program. With a strong commitment to educational equity, she served in Teach For America as a high school math and physics teacher in Washington, D.C., and she was co-founder of the American Society for Engineering Education's Stanford chapter. Dr. LeBlanc joined GWU from Alphabet Energy, a startup company, where she created research, development, and manufacturing characterization solutions for thermoelectric technologies and evaluated the potential of new power generation materials. Dr. LeBlanc's research goals are to utilize nano- and micro-structuring techniques to improve energy systems. She uses scalable manufacturing techniques to create nanostructured materials for energy and thermal management applications and creates techno-economic models for emerging energy technologies.

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Work-In-Progress PAPER This study is a work-in-progress investigating the experiences most salient to newly hired engineers in an electric power utility as they began new jobs. The study is based on an inductive, qualitative design using semi-structured interviews with 12 newly hired engineers. It was the process of integrating and developing the individual’s competencies to better match the requirements of the job (i.e., socialization or onboarding) that was an indicator of job performance—and the focus of this study. The characteristics of this competency matching during the first year of their new employment was related to the newly hired engineers’ education (for the new graduates), and job experiences (for experienced hires)--both acquired from their schooling and previous work. The interviews of newly hired engineers provided in-depth reports of their experiences developing and refining their technical competencies, as well as their professional competencies within the organization. These experiences clearly portray the complexities of how the newcomers worked out the requirements of integrating into the organization. The new hires reported that many of the requirements of the job were not clearly defined or presented; rather, they often learned through trial-and-error. Initial findings indicate that the learning experiences of these newcomers cluster around four content areas of learning aided by facilitating processes in the development of competence.The findings of this study corroborate and elaborate on previous work done on the preparation and transition of engineering graduates from school-to-work, and provide new insights into the process of integrating individual competencies into job requirements. The contribution of this work highlights how newcomers learned about their new jobs and what competencies they drew upon from their education, as well as how they applied their competencies to the practice of engineering. This included various types of formal, informal, incidental and social learning building upon their previous educational and work experiences, self-directed learning on the job, and the mentoring obtained from more experienced insiders. The implications of this work inform the development of professional engineers broadly for STEM careers, and specifically for the energy industry, which is part of the increasing interdisciplinarity and convergence of a wide range of technical fields.

Korte, R., & Leblanc, S. (2020, June), Work In Progress: Investigating the Experiences that Develop Competence for Newly Hired Engineers in an Electric Power Company Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35662

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