Future-proof engineers with transformative calibres

Serene Lin-Stephens, Shaokoon Cheng, Agisilaos Kourmatzis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

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Inadequate preparation of Engineering students for the 21st-century workplace is becoming a lightning rod for criticism. While STEM skills are set to underpin most of the emerging occupations, decades of efforts to re-engineer tech-based curricula seem to have made little headway in enhancing graduate employability. To date, studies contrasting different stakeholders' views on the essential capabilities of graduate engineers have largely settled on leveraging generic skills in technical curricula. Yet the gap remains wide between academic training and the evolving engineering profession. It is questionable if the incorporation of generic transferable skills into discipline-learning alone is sufficient to produce engineers for the future.

This study aims to provide new and structured insights into focuses of Engineering students and employers/industry stakeholders on career/employability development.

This study adopts a framework approach to re-calibrate the professional preparation agenda. The Career Information Literacy Learning Framework (CILLF) is a framework created with STEM academics' inputs. It provides a mechanism to generate differentiators of focuses on career/employability development between Engineering students and employers/industry stakeholders. The Career Information Literacy (CIL) survey was conducted with final year Engineering capstone unit students (n=63, response rate 64%) at a STEM faculty in an Australian university (n=517, response rate 44%). A parallel, concurrent CIL survey with STEM employers targeting these students was conducted (n=62, response rate 78%). CIL profiles between student cohorts and between students and employers were compared.

Profile analysis and Hotelling's T test revealed no significant focal difference between final year Engineering capstone unit students and their STEM peers. However, significant difference existed between the Engineer student cohort and their potential STEM employers in focuses on career/employability development. Further Wilcoxon Rank Sum Test highlighted that Employers distinguish generic (cross-discipline), situated (disciplinespecific) and transformative (trans-discipline) aspects of career/employability development, with the transformative aspect being most the prominent and desirable. However, such emphases were not discernible by the Engineering students.

The CIL analysis uncovers that transformative capabilities are highly desired by STEM employers but remain largely under-detected by Engineering students. This discovery broadens the previously limited notion of adding generic skills to disciplinebased learning to arrive at satisfactory professional preparation of future engineers. It also opens up a new line of inquiry into constituents of transformative capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017)
EditorsNazmul Huda, David Inglis, Nicholas Tse, Graham Town
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherMacquarie University
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780646980263
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAnnual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) (28th : 2017) - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017
Conference number: 28th


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) (28th : 2017)
Abbreviated titleAAEE 2017

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Engineering education
  • STEM employability
  • Career information literacy
  • Capstone units


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