Changing How we Educate Engineers in Industry

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Changing How we Educate Engineers in Industry


All professional engineers make a commitment to maintain and enhance their competence by undertaking ‘Continuing Professional Development (CPD)’. CPD is the process of managing, and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that a member of staff gains, both formally and informally. It is not simply training (learning how to do something, such as a skill) as it includes knowledge (understanding gained through experience or study), and experience (experience is the process of obtaining knowledge and skills from doing and/or participating in relevant projects).

Most of this CPD is informal learning during a working life, complemented by structured activities such as training courses [1]. This professional development is important to staff: professional development is the third most important factor for employees when evaluating their role [2].

Traditionally, this CPD has been provided by employers, but during periods of recession, there are often reductions in structured activities such as training courses; for example, the recent recession in the oil and gas industry has seen training course numbers and attendance plummet by over 75 percent. Add to this problem the continuing widening of the skills/experience gap in this industry as baby boomers retire (Figure 1), and it is not surprising that 36 percent of employers say that a lack of succession planning for knowledge transfer and skills retention is a contributing factor in their skills shortages [2].

Knowledge transfer seems an obvious attraction to workers, and a means of solving skills shortages. But it is not that easy… the current younger generations of engineers are inclined to move jobs more often: in the USA, the average tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times the 2.8 years of workers aged 25 to 34 [3]. This short tenure can both disrupt CPD, and also make employers cautious about spending time and money on knowledge transfer and CPD. This means that management of competence through CPD is becoming more and more difficult, in parallel with it becoming more important.


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