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Seven skills required for an Engineer

Seven skills required for an Engineer

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The focus in engineering education must shift away from the simple presentation of knowledge and toward the integration of knowledge and the development of critical skills needed to make appropriate use of it.

1.Independent learning, interdependent learning and lifelong learning skills:
Students should be able to identify the pertinent factors and issues that affect a given situation, see the situation from a variety of perspectives, recognize what they need to know to resolve the situation, acquire the pertinent knowledge they do not already possess, and apply their knowledge to achieve a successful resolution. They should further be able to elaborate their knowledge so that future recall and application will be easy. Evidence suggests that only some can do it but by no means all students attain this level of development by the time they graduate. But the instructor's job does not end at this point. Students should be helped to go beyond independent learning to interde-pendent learning, recognizing that all knowledge and attitudes must be viewed in context; that getting infor-mation from a variety of sources is more likely to lead to success than relying on a narrow range of sources and viewpoints, and that the peer group is a powerful learning resource.

2.Problem solving, critical thinking and creativity:
Students should be able to draw upon a wide range of analytical, synthetic, and evaluative thinking tools, problem-solving heuristics, and decision-making approaches. When given a problem to solve, they should be equipped to identify the goal and put it in context; formulate a systematic plan of attack that incorporates a suitable blend of analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and problem solving heuristics; locate sources of information; identify main ideas, underlying assumptions, and logical fallacies, and evaluate the credibility of the identified sources; create numerous options and classify and prioritize them; make appro-priate observations and draw sound inferences from them; formulate and implement appropriate measurable criteria for making judgments; develop cogent arguments in support of the validity or plausibility of a hypothesis or thesis; generate new questions or experiments to resolve uncertainties; and monitor their solution process continuously and revise it if necessary.

3.Interpersonal/ group/ team skills:
Engineering is by its nature a coope-rative enterprise, done by teams of people with different backgrounds, abilities, and responsibilities. The image of an isolated engineer, working in solitary splendour on the design of a bridge or amplifier or distillation column, probably never was realistic. The skills associated with successful teamwork-listening, understanding others' viewpoints, leading without dominating, delega-ting and accepting responsibility, and dealing with the interpersonal confli-cts that inevitably arise-may be more vital to the success of a project than technical expertise. Being aware of others' needs and taking them into consideration when making decisi-ons- the essence of teamwork- is surely a prerequisite to functioning professionally and ethically, regardless of how these terms are interpreted.

4.Communication skills:
The teamwork necessary to confront the technological and social challenges facing tomorrow's engineers will require communi- cation skills that cross disciplines, cultures, and languages. Engineers will have to communicate clearly and persuasively in both speaking and writing with other engineers and scientists, systems analysts, account -ants, and managers with and without technical training, within their company and affiliated with multin -ational parent, subsidiary, and client companies, with regulatory agency personnel, and with the general public. Like all the other skills mentioned, effective communication is a skill that can be taught, but doing so requires a conscious effort from those who design curricula.

5.Assessment and self-assessment skills:
The more we can empower students to assess the knowledge and skills of others and their own knowledge and skills accurately, the more effective and confident they become as learners. Moreover, as professionals all of our graduates will receive performance reviews and many will administer them to others. Developing assessment skills could be an important component of their preparation for professional practice.

6.Integration of disciplinary knowledge:
Chemical engineering students get used to solving problems within the narrow context of individual courses. They solve thermodynamics proble-ms in the thermodynamics course and heat transfer problems in the heat transfer course, often never recognizing that the two subject areas are inter-disciplinary.

7.Managing change:
One certaintyAbout engineering in the coming decades is that it will change, because everything else will change. The growth of technology will lead to rapid product obsolescence and a decreasing need for engineers to perform the tasks that occupied most of them for most of this century, and also to a growth in nontraditional job markets for engineers, especially in the international arena. Industries that lack the capacity to adapt and change to shifting markets and new technologies will not survive, and successful engineers will be those who can manage change, especially when change is thrust upon them.
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