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Soft Skills for Entry-Level Engineers: What Employers Want

Published: 14 October 2021
 by  MDPI

Abstract: Among the requirements for engineering programs, the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) criteria for student outcomes require students to have the ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences, recognize ethical and professional responsibilities, function effectively on a team, and apply new knowledge. A review of literature for skills comprised within these ABET criteria determined 26 topics necessary for the entry-level and continued success of engineers. Nearly 500 companies and organizations rated the importance and proficiency of their recent entry-level engineers for these 26 identified soft (professional) skills. The findings suggest that although entry-level engineers have proficiency in all of these ABET required skills, the entry-level engineers were not meeting the level of importance expressed by the organization for 24 of these 26 skills. A specific ABET required skill, the ability to communicate effectively with diverse groups of people, has the greatest difference between the level of proficiency and the level of importance. Analysis of variance was conducted using each of the demographic variables to determine the effect sizes in the ratings of importance, proficiency, and the differences between importance and proficiency. These results were shared with industry members to confirm the relevance of the survey findings during the pandemic. This survey research has implications for any university engineering department where students are seeking entry-level engineering positions after graduation.
Keywords: professional skills / engineering preparation / entry-level expectations / education / soft and hard skills

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