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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Subtitle of host publicationAAEE 2016
EditorsScott T. Smith, Yee Yan Lee, Alireza Bahadori, Neal Lake, Ricardo Vasquez Padilla, Andrew Rose, Ken Doust
Place of PublicationLismore, Australia
PublisherSouthern Cross University
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780994152046
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education: AAEE 2016 - Novotel Pacific Bay Resort, Coffs Harbour, Australia
Duration: 04 Dec 201607 Dec 2016 (Conference website) (Host location conference website) (Conference program)


Conference27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleThe Changing Role of the Engineering Educator for Developing the Future Engineer
CityCoffs Harbour
OtherSince its first offering in 1989, the AAEE conference series has grown into a well-respected and well-known forum aimed to promote scholarship in engineering education and to facilitate the dissemination of best practices throughout the engineering education community.

Historically, AAEE has generally themed conference events and for 2016 the theme is 'The Changing Role of the Engineering Educator for developing the Future Engineer'. This theme touches upon multiple contemporary aspects that can be explored during the conference.
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