1.6 Why educate engineers? Employment

To prepare graduates for employment in engineering industry

This is the ‘obvious’ intention of both undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes. The implication is that all students aspire to become professionally recognised engineers (‘Chartered‘ or ‘Incorporated’  in the UK context, ‘registered’ or ‘certified’ in some other countries) in one or more engineering disciplines. However there are number of less obvious points: The range of potential employers is extremely diverse and not all employers of engineers are ‘engineering’ companies; not all students will on graduation either choose (in good times) or be able (in bad times) to make use of their engineering skills. I have heard it argued that the higher the perceived standards of the School the more attractive their graduates are to non-engineering employers. At times fewer than half of the graduates of some very good Schools choose to deploy their engineering skills, opting perhaps for an initial career in finance or the law. If these career paths are foreseeable by students part-way through their programme, then this must influence their motivation towards and commitment to professional engineering.

Another thought: We like to beat ourselves up in universities for failing to attract or retain engineering students, and for the fact that only about half of them end up in engineering jobs. Should not employers take at least an equal share of the blame? Do they do enough to make it known that a job as an engineer is (or should be) fulfilling, exciting, stimulating and well rewarded? Is this indeed generally true?


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