Date of Award:

5-2019

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Engineering Education

Advisor/Chair:

Kurt Henry Becker

Co-Advisor/Chair:

V. Dean Adams

Third Advisor:

Idalis Villanueva

Abstract

The importance of communication in the engineering profession is widely acknowledged by various stakeholders, including industry, academia, professional engineers, and engineering students. Even though alternative strategies to help students improve their ability to communicate professionally have been approached by many engineering programs across the country, research indicates a continued dissatisfaction of employers when it comes to the performance of engineers as communicators in the workplace. This perspective suggests efforts to improve students’ communication skills in universities may be inconsistent with workplace needs, revealing an apparent gap between what is taught and what is expected from engineering professionals. This gap provides an opportunity for additional research to identify the specific communication competencies required for engineers to succeed in the workplace. Particularly, the requirements of industry concerning engineers’ communication skills need to be understood more deeply, so that new educational interventions may be carefully tailored according to employers’ expectations and that both communication and engineering faculty can revisit their strategies to teach students to become better communicators. In order to obtain a deeper understanding of industry’s expectations concerning engineering communication skills, a qualitative research study was implemented to provide a detailed description of the communication skills practicing engineers need while working in industry. The exclusive focus on industry was pursued through the development of case studies. Four industrial segments (High-Tech, Automotive, Aerospace, and Manufacturing) that employ a significant percentage of engineers in the U.S. were selected. Engineers in leadership positions from each of the selected industrial segments participated in in-depth interviews and discussed about the expected engineering communication skills in industry. The results revealed that: 1) oral communication is prevalent in the engineering profession; 2) engineers need to tailor their messages to multiple audiences and to select the most appropriate type of communication medium; 3) written communication is expected to be clear, concise, and precise; 4) global communication is an increasingly demanded requirement in industry.

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