Study shows Engineering Graduates progressing well in the workplace

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Austin Hanley, Head of Engineering in Athlone Institute of Technology and Dr. Mike Murphy, Director and Dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, DIT

14th June 2011

A new study published today shows that Level 8 Engineering graduates from institutes of technology in Ireland are performing well in the workplace.  The study surveyed graduates from 2000 to 2008 and employers.

The Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progress report was commissioned by engineering schools in twelve Institutes of Technology, the College of Engineering and Built Environment in DIT and by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).

The study found that 83% of respondents believe their education prepared them adequately for their first job and their career.

More than 4 out of 5 respondents to the employer survey found graduates of honours degree programmes in the participating institutes to be either well prepared or prepared in terms of their technical skills or engineering knowledge in their field. The respondents also found the graduates similarly prepared in terms of their practical engineering and problem solving skills.

Approximately 8 out of 10 employer respondents found that institute of technology NFQ Level 8 engineering graduates are progressing at a similar rate in their careers as other graduates.

The careers of the majority of institute of technology graduates are progressing well, with 65% of respondents agreeing that their engineering career and associated salary has progressed as they expected since graduating. Almost 8 out of 10 Level 8 graduate respondents believe that they have been given appropriate engineering responsibilities corresponding with their engineering qualifications.

Employer respondents are also happy with the progression of institute of technology graduates with more than 9 out of 10 employers noting that these graduates either meet or exceed their employers’ expectations. Respondents also reported that institute of technology and university graduates perform similarly in terms of meeting their employers’ expectations.

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Austin Hanley, Head of Engineering in Athlone Institute of Technology and Dr. Mike Murphy, Director and Dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, DIT

Need for improved communication skills

Employers reported that Level 8 engineering graduates of all institutions – universities and institutes of technology - need to be better prepared in terms of their non-technical skills, such as communication - only 64% of respondents found graduates to be prepared in these non-technical skills.

Austin Hanley, Head of the School of Engineering at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and chairperson of the steering group said: “The study provides a baseline against which we can benchmark how our graduates are performing. This gives us a national picture of how honours engineering graduates from institutes of technology across the country are progressing in their careers. It also enables us to capture feedback directly from employers.”

Dr Mike Murphy, Director and Dean, College of Engineering and Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) said: “Our key task is to ensure that our students graduate with skillsets that are current, but also with the ability to continue to develop so that they can be employable throughout their careers. The feedback in this study is valuable in helping us to design our programmes with that in mind.”

Peter Cullen, Head of Standards, Research and Policy Development at HETAC said: “The information and knowledge the institutes have gained from this innovative collaboration will help them individually and jointly to maintain strengths and identify opportunities for improvement. I would like to see other baseline studies undertaken by other disciplines in the future.”

The study included surveys and focus groups of NFQ Level 8 graduates of institute of technology engineering schools and engineering managers from the organisations that employed these graduates. Almost 1,500 graduates of thirteen institutes completed a graduate survey, while 75 engineering managers completed an employer survey.

A total of 18 focus groups were also held – nine for selected graduate survey respondents across a range of engineering disciplines and a further nine for engineering managers from organisations across a number of sectors that employ NFQ Level 8 graduates.

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