Mcwilliams, industrial liaison manager, faculty of engineering, University of Bristol, UK, on how students should equip themselves with the right skills to meet the demands of the engineering industry.
However academically gifted an engineer you are, a degree from a good University is no longer enough to land the engineering job you want — that’s the consistent message from companies as far afield as London, Delhi and Beijing. There are so many excellent graduates now — and companies are working under everincreasing competition from around the world — they need employees with more than just the kind of knowledge learned in the classroom.
Nishan Canagarajah, dean of engineering at the University of Bristol, comments, “I tell all our students that companies want to employ people with a real breadth of attributes, and so I work hard with my colleagues to give our students opportunities to develop different skills.”
So what skills are these companies looking for, exactly? Firstly, they’re looking for people who know how to transfer their academic knowledge into an industrial setting — and the best way to demonstrate that is through a successful internship. Sushovan Roychowdhury, engineering method specialist at GKN Aerospace Bangalore says, “Applicants who have done some kind of internship really stand out — they are clearly the ones who are already thinking about how to apply their knowledge in the real world; an internship can also help in understanding the skills required — both soft and technical — for employment in engineering companies.”
Secondly, they’re looking for evidence of an enterprising spirit — this could be a student who has set up their own small company whilst studying, but might equally be someone who has achieved something else beyond the confines of the curriculum in a sporting or artistic field.
Companies always tell me that they’re looking for evidence of achievement entirely outside a graduate’s field of study.
Thirdly, employers want engineers who are also great communicators.
Sophie Yang, HR officer for Arup (Beijing) says, “Having strong relevant technical knowledge is essential. However, equally important is communication and team-working skills, because you will often be required to work in a team to solve problems.”
Professor Canagarajah sums it up, “Students who want to work for the best companies when they graduate need to be getting out there whilst they’re still students, or even before, showing that they are able to work with people and have the drive to achieve things under their own steam.”
So academic study and achievement is still crucial to getting a great job after you graduate, but now you need to do a lot more.