A new report from Hays Engineering says that to remain employable engineers require environmentally sustainable design knowledge, expertise in new technology such as GPS positioning, drones and virtual reality (VR), and a willingness to continuously ask questions. “Automation and artificial intelligence threaten to make many of the traditional and base level skills of engineers redundant (at least to a degree),” writes Megan Motto, CEO of Consult Australia, in the foreword of The Modern Engineer: What it Takes to Succeed. “Both engineers and employers (need) to consider areas for personal and organisational development to ensure they have the right skills to remain relevant in the future."
So where should engineers focus their learning and development? “Engineers who want to do their job effectively in the coming years need to be across environmentally sustainable design and life-cycle assessment,” says Adam Shapley, senior regional director of Hays Engineering. “They must upskill in the latest technology tools, including GPS positioning, survey equipment, drones, Augmented Reality (AR) and VR, and they must ensure their technical foundation remains strong.
“Entry-level candidates need a strong technical foundation as well as mathematical ability, while more experienced candidates need to gain a high level of emotional intelligence and social skills. I believe that to be successful, today’s engineer must demonstrate an appetite and aptitude to learn quickly and ask questions to keep their knowledge current.”
The results also provide insights for employers. “When looking to attract and retain engineers, it’s important to promote the quality of work your practice produces, offer clear career paths and provide continuous on-the-job training across all levels since this is how people want to gain the skills they need,” says Shapley. “Employers are also advised to offer flexible working arrangements or part-time hours, make soft skills part of your selection criteria, and remember that software skills can be taught and should not hinder the hiring of an otherwise ideal candidate.”
Hays Engineering surveyed 340 engineers and held 13 in-depth interviews with industry leaders to identify what makes a modern engineer.
Key findings include:
• 72 per cent of surveyed engineers expect to add to their skills through upskilling on-the-job;
• Upskilling in the latest technologies is of most importance, but at present such technology is only in use by a minority of engineers: GPS positioning (used by 34 per cent of surveyed engineers), survey equipment (21 per cent), drones (10 per cent), and AR and VR tools (9 per cent);
• Engineers say they need to become familiar with STEM skills and knowledge (58 per cent), environmentally sustainable design (58 per cent) and life cycle assessment (53 per cent);
• 3D modelling skills are important as 44 per cent say 2D skills will lose relevance;
• 17 per cent say the industry is struggling to find professionals with the right level of 12D skills;
• 73 per cent say having calculation and math skills is very or extremely important;
• 75 per cent said making a positive contribution to the living environment helps them thrive in their jobs;
• Solving problems by creating solutions makes them proud (41 per cent);
• 41 per cent believe that by 2020, job opportunities resulting from infrastructure projects will rise;
The research also reveals key learnings for employers:
• When considering a new job, the quality of a practice’s work has the greatest influence on a jobseeker’s decision (76 per cent), followed by a competitive salary (74 per cent) and work-life balance (69 per cent);
• For 68 per cent, work quality also retains them, followed by a competitive salary (63 per cent) and work-life balance (58 per cent);
• Soft skills should be in the selection criteria, with problem solving (important to 64 per cent) and communication (51 per cent) skills essential;
• Adaptability and interests in ongoing learning and digital transformation are important too; Software skills can be taught: 53 per cent of engineers have been offered a role without possessing the necessary software experience, with 69 per cent taking less than six months to upskill.