on November 11th, 2021

Engineering qualifications and degrees hold a lot of capital within the world.

The World Economic Forum maintains that STEM degrees and engineering degrees assure good-paying positions and are almost always in demand. Career pathways in most engineering fields also yield low unemployment rates when compared to other careers.

The qualifications offered by EIT ensure students gain technical skills that can be immediately implemented in the workforce. Coupled with that, there’s an interesting correlation between engineering qualifications and soft skills that leads to some entrepreneurial advantages.

We looked at how working engineers can couple their powerful engineering know-how with what has been deemed as the essential soft skills they can add to create powerful and impactful careers.

Why Engineering Soft Skills Matter

Soft skills in the engineering realm don’t just mean the opposite of hard skills. More often than not, it refers to skills engineers need to function within a job and deal with people.

In the corporate world, this is especially important. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a skill young engineers need when working in new or high-stress environments.

EQ can play a role in your eventual mental health when you consider working as a FIFO worker or even a position that will have you isolated from your usual surroundings.

EQ is even said to be more important than hard skills when it comes to determining success. Engineering Soft Skills vs. Engineering Entrepreneurial Skills argues that the most prevalent soft skills engineers need for balanced EQ are communication and teamwork skills.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

1. Emotional Intelligence

For the authors of the research paper, Emotional intelligence in engineering education, EQ relates to students who show self-consciousness, added effort in their daily lives, break the stimulations, and share the emotions of others or be aware of those emotions.

EQ is often more important than IQ because it relates to living a successful life connected to real-world surroundings.

The paper adds self-awareness, confidence, self-control, the ability to commit to tasks, high integrity, influence communication, and acceptance as valuable aspects of EQ. It was found that engineers can productively increase their EQ when they engage with hobbies within the STEM environment (like robotics).

Hobbies related to their field of interest teach engineering skills while incorporating teamwork, communication, and other relevant soft skills.

The paper concluded that a group of Turkish students showed improved EQ when they took part in activities that were social but among like-minded engineers. It created personal motivation but also the management of feelings within a group or in themselves.

2. Communication Skills

One of the most valuable skills engineers can have is good verbal and written communication.

A recent paper from India, Enhancing communication skills of engineering students, looked at some methodologies, tools, and techniques that help enhance the communication skills of engineering classrooms.

In essence, when students are already taught communication during their studies, it will eventually help them become effective communicators with words. While engineers are highly-skilled in communicating through math or science, sometimes having a firm grasp of other types of communication, including language, can help them excel in other areas.

The paper explores how Indian students are specifically able to communicate in English and how this becomes a valuable skill in the workplace because they can communicate through a language that opens up employment opportunities in other countries.

It is also mentioned that effective communication aids self-confidence and also empowers students to have more meaningful employment.

3. Teamwork

One paper, Evaluating Student Confidence in Engineering Design, Teamwork and Communication, breaks down expertly why teamwork is essential – it creates confidence in the work because it’s a shared experience and responsibility.

Delving a little deeper, the importance of teamwork becomes more evident. One area of focus is that teamwork improves conflict resolution between people working on the same project. Teamwork also reduces some stress, as the brainstorming phase of a project is shared, making it easier for that on-board.

Only These Three?

The above are the prominent three soft skills engineers should be aware of since they will need to be able to communicate and work in teams – and also, if they have the required EQ, this all will be pretty natural.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

However, this doesn’t mean soft skills are that easily definable for everyone. Soft skills are a broad concept because they relate to individual experiences.

Engineering graduates can be seen as homogenous because their technical skills and education are on-par with their peers.

A recent look at soft skills in engineering education proclaims that developing soft skills requires a certain amount of self-knowledge to identify your abilities and characteristics.

According to the paper, Opportunities for the Development of Soft Skills in Engineer Education, this is a form of personality development.

To achieve this development, there is a need to interpret your own and other people’s behavior, introversion, and extraversion.

This requires social skills and the development of a personality within the context of education and within life.

As students, there are many opportunities to expand on these skills. That is why it is essential to take part in classes and continuously look to form social bonds with fellow students.

Education is already a shared commonality which makes it easier to gain confidence in other areas of social skills.

Courses to add to the list

It’s easy to assume that an engineering degree or work experience makes an engineer, but skills like management and leadership can further enhance a career.

According to Engineers Australia, engineers often face the dilemma that what they learn during their degree or academic qualification often becomes irrelevant in a few years as engineering is quick to evolve. Therefore, soft skills are a crucial part of staying on-trend in a workplace.

A study by the World Economic Forum found that two of the Top 10 skills engineers need are business management and employee learning and development.

Student Support Officer at EIT, Thelma Bongo, notes that EIT’s BSB50420 Diploma of Leadership and Management is attractive because it addresses what engineers need. At the same time, it is a course suited towards those working in the engineering field but aren’t necessarily engineers.

“Most of the applications we receive are from those already working in the field but aren’t engineers,” she says. Administrative staff and managers are on the top of the list of those enrolled in the course.

“The course covers engineering aspects that are not covered at an ordinary business management college offering the same qualification, and students can use this as a stepping stone for promotion within the organizations they work for.”

The course covers many of the aspects needed for new engineers but also offers significant upskilling. The course covers modules like developing and using emotional intelligence, managing business operational plans, leading and managing effective workplace relationships, and business management.

Please find out more about EIT’s BSB50420 Diploma of Leadership and Management through the course page on our website.

The next intake is on 3 May 2022.

References

World Economic Forum, 2020. STEM Degrees Most Valuable. [online] Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/stem-degrees-most-valuable/ (Accessed 4 November)

Jafari, Roy & Smith, Brian & Burch, Reuben & Vick, Sara. (2019). Engineering Soft Skills vs. Engineering Entrepreneurial Skills. International Journal of Engineering Education. 35. 988-998.

Tekerek, Mehmet & Tekerek, Betül. (2017). Emotional intelligence in engineering education. Turkish Journal of Education. 88-88. 10.19128/turje.306499.

Velayudham, Saravanan & Ganesan, Sankar. (2021). Enhancing communication skills of engineering Students -A Study. 2020.

McKenna, Ann & Hirsch, Penny. (2005). Evaluating Student Confidence in Engineering Design, Teamwork, and Communication. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.

Holik, Ildikó & Sanda, István. (2021). Opportunities for the Development of Soft Skills in Engineer Education. Opus et Education. 8. 238-245. 10.3311/ope.462.

Engineers Australia, 2019. Why 2019 is shaping to be the year of the young engineer. [online] Available at: https://www. engineersaustralia.org.au/News/why-2019-shaping-be-year-young-engineer [Accessed 8 November]

World Economic Forum, 2020. Jobs of Tomorrow Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy, [online] Available at: https://www.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Jobs_of_Tomorrow_2020.pdf [Accessed 8 November]

Oliver, A., 2000, Management is the Key, not Leadership, New Civil Engineer [online] Available at https://www.nce.co.uk/management-is-the-key-not-leadership/822120.article [Accessed 8 November]

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