Drivers of Focus on Skills Development in Engineering Education

There have been many drivers for the emergence of research on skills and talent of graduate engineers, and the same drivers have led to identifying the needs of engineering graduates and skills that meet significantly wider needs than ever. These drivers are mainly the following:

  • • Satisfying industrial needs (Spinks et al. 2006).
  • • The emerging roles and disciplines of engineering sciences (Tryggvason and Apelian 2006).
  • • Adapting to highly advanced and complex working environment.
  • • Contextualizing the generic engineering graduates’ attributes in the light of the needs of knowledge-based societies and economies (Male and Chapman 2005).

These factors have been pressing on deploying changes in engineering education systems to meet the emerging needs. The drivers are visually represented in the model-of-four-forces (eng-skills-MoFF) shown in Fig. 2.1 and are detailed in the subsections below.

Driver 1: Bridging the Gap with Industry Needs

The gap between the graduates’ actual and industry-desired attributes has been extensively investigated and recognized through numerous studies, mostly surveying engineering employers about their satisfaction with the fresh graduate skills and competencies. The majority of the studies have reported a deficiency in

Fig. 2.1 The

model-of-four-driving-forces for focus on engineering skills (eng-skills-MoFDF)

graduate attributes (Kirkpatrick 2011; Rabl and Hillmer 2012; Patil and Codner 2008; Zaharim et al. 2010; Spinks et al. 2006) mainly in soft skills such as communication skills, leadership, social and ethical skills. Nowadays, industrial bodies are looking for graduates who are equipped not only with technical but also with many other soft skills (NSB 2007), and for some employers soft skills are even more valuable and appreciated (Khair et al. 2013).

The reason behind this gap is the imbalanced focus of the engineering education on teaching engineering knowledge and technical skills at the expense of enforcing soft skills in the students (Childs and Gibson 2010). As a response, the US and Australian engineering education systems have shifted over the last 15 years towards an outcome-based approach to produce graduates with necessary skills for the industry market (Walther and Radcliffe 2007).

The gap between education and practice of engineering can widen in the future (NAE 2005). Especially in the GCC and Middle East, the gap is higher due to the rapid development and growth dynamics in the market and industry that have not been coupled with adequate educational advancements to keep an alignment between both. Hence, prompt actions need to be taken to advance the engineering education system, to better prepare the graduates for practice, and to satisfy the need of industry.

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