A mixed method study on transitioning engineering graduate attributes into the workplace

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Petkau, Donald
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Canadian engineering schools are required to follow an accreditation program as outlined by Engineers Canada. This program determines the qualifications of a graduating engineer through a series of graduate attributes. These attributes are an outline of the skills/abilities required in their educational programs. This study was developed in conjunction with Manitoba Hydro to determine an understanding of the knowledge gaps between a senior professional engineer and a newly graduated engineer. Training and engineering design knowledge transfer is a primary concern for this corporation. The research question focused on determining the activities of a senior and junior group of engineers and how these activities differed. The second question was on determining the skill/ability level of a new engineering graduate upon entering the workplace. This skill/ability level can be determined with respect to the graduate attributes. Data was collected using a mixed method approach. Interviews were conducted with a group of professional engineers and another group of engineers in training. Following the interview process two sets of questionnaires were completed by each group of participants. One questionnaire was based on engineering activities undertaken in the workplace. The second questionnaire was based on assessments of graduate attribute requirements and abilities for new graduates. The findings showed that engineering activities for these participants matched closely to information as reported in the literature. It was also determined that differences between the two groups in the study were due to the supervisory duties of the senior group and the technical nature of the junior groups responsibilities. Findings for the second question showed that engineers in the workplace are more critical of their skill/abilities that are newly graduated engineers. The study showed that this group of participants felt the level of knowledge for a newly graduated engineer was at an introductory level. They also indicated that generally this level was adequate for the responsibilities of the workplace. It was determined that the most important skill area was in the social aspects of the graduate attributes and this was the area of the greatest deficit in educational knowledge.
engineering, education, graduate, attributes