Engineering graduates need to learn teamwork, study finds
Employers happy with technical training though
ENGINEERING graduates are well trained but struggle to work well in a team, a study has found.
While their bosses are happy that they are well prepared for the technical side of the job, they say graduates need to improve their communication and teamwork skills.
This is among the findings of a survey on the experiences of honours engineering graduates emerging from the institutes of technology (ITs) between 2000 and 2008.
The survey looked at how an IT engineering qualification was viewed by employers, graduates' colleagues and the public when compared with a similar university qualification.
While employers saw no difference between IT graduates and those from universities, the public perception was that an IT qualification was of less value.
The survey covered 1,500 former students of three institutes and almost 75 engineering managers in organisations employing honours graduates.
The lessons from the study are being taken on board by the ITs, which will place stronger emphasis on developing communications and teamwork skills from this autumn.
The colleges will also pick up on another recommendation about the need to build links between the institutes and industry, including work experience for academic staff.
Dr Mike Murphy, director and dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), said academics wanted to ensure students graduated with skill sets that were current, but had the ability to develop, so they could be employable throughout their careers.
"The feedback in this study is valuable in helping us to design our programmes with that in mind," he said
Among the other main findings were that more than four in five engineering graduates believe their education prepared them adequately for their first job and career.
A similar proportion of employers agreed that IT graduates were either well prepared or prepared in terms of their technical and problem-solving skills or engineering knowledge.
However, employers also reported that honours engineering graduates of all institutions needed to be better prepared in terms of their non-technical skills, such as communication.
Only two-thirds of employers found graduates of the institutes were prepared in non-technical skills, while fewer than two in three graduates said they felt as well prepared in this area as they were in their technical skills.
The careers of most institute of technology graduates were progressing well and at a similar rate as other graduates, the study found.
More than nine in 10 employers said the institute graduates either met or exceeded their expectations and their performance was in line with university graduates.