Elevating the next generation of engineers, preparing them for industry
Most knowledge and specific work-related skills are learned on the job. However, changing the way we teach and educate can prepare the future generation of engineers to be better equipped to deal with the challenges and differences of the near future.
Future generation engineers will require training and skillsets that will equip them with the ability to overcome challenges that are completely new to the world. Such as dealing with an increasing global population, which will require new approaches to transport infrastructure and managing change in industries such as the medical and healthcare sectors to deal with these populations.
While a list of major challenges could be endless, some standouts include management of large-scale globalization and sustainability in design and manufacturing. How we need to approach these topics raises questions for how we train our future engineers, and how we can best prepare them to be effective and job-ready as fast as possible.
The rise of AI and Advanced Automation
Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are already having a major impact on the engineering world, enabled in part by developments in supercomputing. It is predicted that as these technologies become more widely adopted in industry, they will become essential players behind modern economic growth. In this space of engineering, change is constant. Future engineers will need to be comfortable, competent and able to rapidly adapt to change if the companies they serve are to stay relevant.
Additionally, many roles and work tasks that engineers and technical professionals have traditionally undertaken will be highly susceptible to automation. Work tasks that involve data collection and processing, as well as repeatable and predictable physical labour, will see an increasing transition to automation.
The skills that are evidence of being more in-demand for future engineers include applying the expertise of complex dynamic systems (advanced systems engineering), interacting (communication) with a diverse professional network and rapidly dealing with uncertainty and events that are difficult to forecast and predict. A perfect example of a rapid response required to an uncertain event, are the challenges engineers are currently facing due to the current COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis.
Early Practical Experience and A new Global Playing Field
As time progresses, certain disciplines of traditional textbook engineering skills will become less relevant. Especially as so much information is now instantly available to people through the internet and the younger generations’ ability for constant connection to the world through smartphones and other smart devices. While certain hard skills will always be essential, a focus on soft skills is now required more than ever. One of the best ways to develop these early soft skills is through project-based learning and real-life industry experience as early as possible in an engineer’s education. Dealing with real people and real problems.
Other soft skills such as how to effectively communicate with others of various backgrounds and cultures will be needed to allow for a truly interconnected global world. Being sensitive of and operate rapidly and efficiently with firms and project stakeholders in other countries is becoming increasingly needed. Engineers with diverse cultural backgrounds and the ability to speak multiple languages are predicted to be more in demand than ever.