The Skills Engineers Did Not Know They Needed

Could you visualise a world without technical drawing software? Showing the inner workings of something you engineered by hand sketching the details as accurately as possible. CAD software is the lifeblood of design engineers. Most modern engineers applying for patents for their tirelessly engineered innovations use CAD programs to create their technical drawings. Other design engineers will use the programs to show a mockup of what an eventual product design may look like, and can introduce hypothetical changes to the product and measure the effect it might have. The pen and ruler has been replaced by computer software. Eighty years ago, however, the inefficient pen and ruler is all engineers had.

A collector of technical drawings appeared on BBC’s Antiques road show in September, with a box full of technical drawings from a railway and civil engineer named Robert Stephenson, who drew technical drawings by hand in 1823. He was the son of who is considered to be the ‘Father of Railways’, George Stephenson. Jonathan Moller, who brought the box of drawings to the popular show bought the box on eBay for $115. The historian on the show valuated the drawings at more than $38,000.

There probably are still the purists who have not let go of the traditional pencil and eraser, however, there is no denying that technology has forever changed engineering. As a result, engineers have had to gain new skills related to information technology to keep as relevant to the industry. Their grasp on technical knowledge has undeniably grown over the years.

LinkedIn have published their list of skills that are most in demand and will most likely get a candidate hired in the modern workplace. The conundrum that engineers face is how to implement non-engineering skills into their daily work life without losing focus on their main skills. The most ‘in-demand’ skills, according to LinkedIn are:

1.    Cloud and distributed computing
2.    Statistical analysis and data mining
3.    Web architecture and development framework
4.    Middleware and integration software
5.    User interface design
6.    Network and information security
7.    Mobile development
8.    Data presentation
9.    Search engine optimization marketing
10.  Storage systems and management

Those look more like individual jobs than skills, to be frank. What is apparent is that information technology skills have become very crucial to landing a job in the global village. Having ten of these skills on top of an engineering degree is probably being optimistic. Having some of these skills, however, could put you ahead of the pack. Gone are the days where just being a people person, with the ability of being a team player, gets you the job.

In some cases, engineers abandon their initial engineering studies and move to a DevOps engineering role or software engineering role, away from traditional engineering endeavour. And perhaps some are not wrong. CareerCast.com published a report that showed that software engineers, computer system analysts and web developers are the most in demand jobs of 2016, with petroleum engineering only coming in at fourth place. The starting salaries for engineers may be higher but there seems to be more job opportunities for people going into information technology roles, where only some rely on engineering.

Moreover, there is a push for engineers to become proficient in marketing and entrepreneurial skills as well. Engineers with the market-know-how of Steve Jobs and the technical skill of Steve Wozniak. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched a minor degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation earlier this year, encouraging engineers to enroll due to the lecturers being part of the MIT Schools of Engineering and Management.

Some critics, however, are giving a different perspective on the way engineering is being advertised to future students. Critics say it should not be advertised as a field of study that leans heavily on entrepreneurship and makes it look all shiny. The reality of it is a bit different. Although, working for Tesla or SpaceX would be cool.

The value of engineering is much, much more than just innovation and new things. Focusing on taking care of the world rather just creating the new nifty thing that’s going to solve all of our problems,” said Lee Vinsel, an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He spoke to journalist Stephen Dubner on a recent podcast episode of Freakonomics, named ‘In Praise of Maintenance’.

If you look at what engineers do, out in the world, like 70-80 percent of them spend most of their time just keeping things going. And so, this comes down to engineering education too, when we’re forcing entrepreneurship and innovation as the message, we’re just kind of skewing reality for young people and we’re not giving them the real picture and we’re also not valuing the work that they’re probably going to do in their life. That just seems to me to be a kind of a bad idea” Vinsel said.

This is where LinkedIn’s ‘in demand’ skills come in. A good number of industrial facilities now run on completely automated systems that rely on SCADA systems, PLCs and more. Technical know-how is a must when it comes to these systems, because the Internet of Things lies on the horizon. This means that learning how to secure network information and operations is critical to keeping key engineering industries (like power plants) functioning. It would be advantageous to become well equipped with the skills that could save a company a lot of money, and could get you a pay raise.

Here at the Engineering Insittute of Technology we offer Professional Certificate of Competency in 3D Engineering Design and Printing for Rapid Prototyping 3 month course, as well as various SCADA 3 month courses: The Professional Certificate of Competency in Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) & SCADA Systems and Professional Certificate of Competency in Modern SCADA Communication Systems including DNP3 & IEC60870.

Please contact us for more information.