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Essential skills for engineering cadets and graduates: Responses from an industry survey

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: Charles Sturt University's new civil engineering program is unique amongst Australian universities in that it incorporates a true industry perspective for students whilst they are at university. This helps students develop relevant skills to ease the transition into engineering practice. Current research indicates a disconnect between the skills that industry desire in cadet and graduate engineers and those they actually possess. Thus far, there have been incomplete attempts to identify these skills. This can be attributed to a lack of sufficient engagement between universities and the engineering sector.

Purpose: The aim of this research was to identify the skills and attributes that industry requires of cadet and graduate engineers. This helped determine the topics required in the first 18 months of the CSU civil engineering program. Additionally, this research helped identify industry partners for on-going engagement with CSU engineering.

Approach: A survey was created using Survey Gizmo, a free online survey program, and was distributed to practicing civil engineers, industry partners and posted to online forums. The qualitative survey consisted of six open-ended questions focusing on respondent's experiences and expectations of cadet and graduate engineers. Questions were deliberately open ended to avoid leading the answers of respondents into particular attributes or skills. The survey was designed to be quick to complete. Responses to open ended questions were analysed qualitatively or quantitatively depending on the data. Preliminary analysis of the qualitative data consisted of identifying themes and then quantifying the percentage of responses identifying each theme, knowledge or skill in our case.

Results: Completed surveys were received from sixty two engineers working in consultancies, local government and government agencies. Results showed a fairly equal preference between specific technical skills and professional attributes, such as communication, problem solving, team work and time management. . Particular technical skills, including surveying, CAD and Excel; were identified and this helped CSU staff identify the list of compulsory topics for the students to complete prior to industry placement. Further analysis will address the similarities and differences between requirements for cadet and graduate engineers as expressed by the different sectors of the civil engineering profession.

Conclusions: Based on the results it can be inferred that industry desires graduates with well-developed professional skills and technical knowledge but expect to train them in job-specific areas. The unique structure of the CSU program requires that staff help develop these skills in students within eighteen months, prior to their industry placement. There seems to be some technical areas in which graduates are not meeting industry needs that could be looked into further.

To cite this article: Cameron, Shara and Devitt, Josh. Essential skills for engineering cadets and graduates: Responses from an industry survey [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 122-130. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=679375209270827;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 27 Jun 17].

Personal Author: Cameron, Shara; Devitt, Josh; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 122-130. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Universities and colleges--Graduate work; Engineering--Study and teaching (Graduate); Engineering students; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Charles Sturt University, email: shacameron@csu.edu.au
(2) Charles Sturt University

Database: Engineering Collection