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Work-in-Progress: Skill Requirements for Electrical and Computer Engineers (ECE) Graduates in the United States: Industrial companies' perspectives

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Mohammad Al Mestiraihi Utah State University

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Mohammad Al Mestiraihi is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Engineering Education Department at Utah State University. Mohammad was born and raised in Jordan, his home country. Before joining USU, Mohammad was a student at Oklahoma State University where he received a Master of Science degree from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Mohammad also received another Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST ) in Jordan. Besides, Mohammad also has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Al Yarmouk University in Jordan. Complemented with his educational degrees, Mohammad has more than four years of teaching experience at Najran University, Saudi Arabia. Mohammad was also working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for 2.5 years at Oklahoma State University. Currently, Mohammad is working toward getting his Ph.D. degree from the Engineering Education Department under Professor Kurt Becker’s supervision and is doing Engineering Education research that focuses on academia-industry collaborations for Electrical and Computer Engineering graduates.

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Kurt Becker Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Kurt Becker, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Engineering Education, College of Engineering, Utah State University

Kurt Becker is a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University. His research includes engineering design thinking, systems engineering, engineering education professional development, technical training, and adult learning cognition. He is currently working on National Science Foundation funded projects exploring engineering design thinking and systems thinking, a USAID funded project in Egypt, “Center of Excellence in Water”, and Department of Education funded GEARUP projects in the area of STEM education related to engineering education. He has extensive international experience working on technical training and engineering projects funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Countries where he has worked include Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Thailand. In addition, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in engineering education for the department.

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There is a mismatch or gap between the job-related skills that industrial companies want from Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) graduates and what academic institutions provide when students graduate from ECE programs. Consequently, and based on the literature, the number of contemporary graduates that lack the industry-required skills has increased. Because of the skills gap, newly hired engineers may require additional training to attain critical competencies, which cost employers time and money.

This paper examines the skills required by ECE graduates in the United States and presents survey results from ECE professional engineers. The survey used in this study was obtained from The College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the U.S. Department of Education. The survey focuses on nine major categories: applied academic skills, critical thinking skills, interpersonal skills, personal skills, resource management skills, information use skills, communication skills, system thinking skills, and technology use skills. ECE professional engineers were asked to rank skills on a 1-5 Likert scale where “one” is not important and “five” is vital. They also were asked to rate the degree of preparedness upon graduation for the same skills on a 1-5 Likert scale.

This paper highlights the perspectives of 45 ECE professionals regarding the required skills ECE graduates should possess upon graduation and how vital these skills are. The results of the survey highlight the gap between the level of importance and the degree of preparedness for ECE graduates regarding these skills. The results also show that communication skills, system thinking skills, technology skills, and critical thinking skills are more important than applied academic skills, interpersonal skills, and personal qualities. It is apparent that the existing skills gap between the degree of importance and how prepared ECE graduates are is a concern of industry, and the lack of preparation for these skills can severely impact the employability of ECE graduates. System thinking skills, with an average value of 4.68, are clearly the most significant abilities, followed by communication and technology skills, with average values of 4.52 and 4.40, respectively. The average rating for all of the survey respondents is 3.54, indicating that ECE graduates are highly prepared in applied academic skills. The most striking findings from the data revealed that ECE graduates are underprepared in system thinking skills, which have been given the highest importance. This has significant implications for the pressing need to promote the use of novel teaching approaches that help ECE graduates develop system thinking skills.

Al Mestiraihi, M., & Becker, K. (2022, August), Work-in-Progress: Skill Requirements for Electrical and Computer Engineers (ECE) Graduates in the United States: Industrial companies' perspectives Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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