Enhance your engineering career with crucial soft skills
22 August 2013
In the current economic climate, it pays to give oneself an edge over other job-seeking candidates. Further education can enhance existing capabilities, but can also help engineers to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are not taught at college – practical skills that can make all the difference in the workplace, with clients and with potential clients.
Engineers Ireland has just launched its annual CPD scholarship programme, which gives graduate engineers the chance to have 75% of their fees paid to fund either the CPD Certificate in Professional Engineering or the CPD Diploma in Professional Engineering. Both are fully accredited by Dublin Institute of Technology, resulting in postgraduate awards at Level 9 on the Irish national framework of qualifications.
CERTIFICATE IN PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING
David Fahey completed the six-month CPD Certificate in Professional Engineering last year – the first time that the programme was run. Designed in tandem with employers to meet their needs, it assists graduate engineers transition from college to the place of work.
“The course comprised of five one-day modules and a single two-day module from February to June 2012 and my employers, Roughan & O’Donovan [ROD] consulting engineers, were very supportive,” said Fahey. “In fact, one of the CPD committee here in ROD suggested that I undertake it, after spotting advertisements on the Engineers Ireland website.”
Senior staff in ROD act as CPD mentors to graduate engineers who start work with the company. Fahey’s mentor, company director Richard Power, agreed that the CPD in Professional Engineering course would be beneficial.
“I started in the company in September 2011 after completing my degree in civil engineering in UCD, followed by a master’s in business analytics,” said Fahey. “I learned excellent technical skills at college, but my mentor agreed with me that it would be great to learn ‘soft skills’ to become more of an all-rounder – like communication and presentation techniques, time management and organisation, technical report writing and problem solving/analytical skills.
“The certificate also included aspects such as collaboration and teamwork, ethics and workplace professionalism. It proved ideal because it covered all of the different aspects that a graduate needs to learn in one study block, and it’s specially designed for recent graduate engineers. In fact, two of my colleagues also did the course with me: Orlaith O’Brien and Deirdre Neff.”
There was no examination at the end of programme, but Fahey had to write a ‘learning contract’ at the end of each module. “I had to think about how to actually apply what I was learning to my own workplace, so that was a very practical way of making sure that we’d benefit from the course.”
Fahey said that in particular, the report-writing module was very useful in his job. “I also feel the course has equipped me better for the future. As yet, I don’t have responsibility for other staff, but the time-management and organisational aspects of the certificate mean that I’d be more confident if I were to be tasked with managing other engineers, down the line.
“The CPD Certificate in Professional Engineering has given me a great overview of my strengths and weaknesses and what soft skills I need to work on, so that I can become a better, all-round engineer,” he concluded.
DIPLOMA IN PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING
In May, Laura Tobin completed the first run of the 18-month CPD Diploma in Professional Engineering, which is designed to enable engineers with a minimum of three years’ professional practice to make a major step-up in their competence and capability. She studied civil engineering in NUI Galway and graduated with first-class honours in 2007.
Tobin was working as a project engineer with Roadbridge Ltd on the Corrib Gas Project in Mayo when she applied for the diploma, having started out as a site engineer. “I saw a link to the course on the Engineers Ireland website, when looking into what was required to gain chartered engineer status,” she explained. “I had two goals in mind when I applied. In the long term, I wanted to become a project manager on a large civil engineering project. In the medium term, I wanted to become a chartered engineer.”
Tobin’s work in the oil and gas industry on major multi-disciplinary projects meant she already had considerable practical experience. However, she required a concentrated amount of academically orientated CPD to round out her training.
Tobin’s application won her the Engineers Ireland Annual CPD Scholarship, which gives engineers the chance to have 75% of their fees paid. “I think I was awarded the scholarship because it was important to make up a class with people who have a wide diversity of jobs and backgrounds, as it enhances learning within the group. I’d worked on two significant projects within the oil and gas industry and felt I had a lot to contribute to a group. I was also able to explain how I thought that each module on the course could be applied to achieve my goals.”
The CPD Diploma in Professional Engineering is organised around the concept of the ‘T-shaped engineer’. While engineers may have a depth of knowledge in their own discipline, there can be a lack of a broader knowledge in areas such as business and management, or even the soft skills such as leadership, communication and relationship management.
This course aims to develop the second dimension of skills that an engineer requires in order to be successful. As with the certificate programme, after a module has been completed, there is a challenge of figuring out how this new-found knowledge can be applied in the workplace by completing a ‘learning contract’.
“This required a lot of thought, but I found they expanded the way that I thought,” said Tobin. “There were no exams – it was very much based on how knowledge could be applied practically in the workplace, and some modules had post-course assignments to help reinforce what had been learned in class. There was a group project in the second year and a lot of extra-curricular time was spent on this.”
Roadbridge, she said, supported her decision to undertake the course and her boss was proud of her for having been awarded the scholarship. “Although it was sometimes difficult to balance work and study, I knew it would pay off. I also found I was constantly looking for ways to apply my learning throughout my working day, so it was just a matter of recording this in the evening. It helped that I found most of the subjects interesting and it didn’t feel like study to be reading more about them.”
The study did indeed pay off for Tobin. She was awarded chartered status last November and was nominated for Chartered Engineer of the Year. She has also gotten a new job in Australia as a project manager with Reilly Contractors in Perth.
“The programme really helped me when doing job interviews; I feel it gave me an edge over others. It’s fantastic to start a new job and have so many ideas I can implement on the back of the different modules I’ve done. I’m also fortunate to have found a business that’s still developing, which is willing to take my ideas on board.
Tobin said she would recommend this to other engineers who are interested in furthering their careers. “You definitely get back what you put into it,” she concluded.
The deadlines for this year’s CPD scholarship applications are as follows:
CPD Certificate in Professional Engineering – 4pm Friday, August 23, 2013
CPD Diploma in Professional Engineering – 4pm Friday, September 2, 2013
For more information and for application forms, click here.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2013/08/22/enhance-your-engineering-career-with-crucial-soft-skills/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/cpd-course-1024x683.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/cpd-course-300x300.jpgNewsCPD,Engineers Ireland