A survey into the future of engineering has uncovered few surprises in relation to the technical knowledge required for the latest generation of industrial engineers with 84% ranking automation, robotics and mechatronics as the most important skills. Artificial intelligence also ranked highly in the CV stakes at 69%.
When it comes to non-engineering qualities, however, creativity was at the top of the charts in the collaborative study by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Engineers who are starting out in their careers now and over the next decade will have to navigate a significant pace of change. There will be little room for fixed mindsets and although engineers are problem solvers by nature, they will be expected to contribute ideas, enthusiasm and versatility too.
It is little wonder therefore that creativity was the most desirable soft skill identified in the survey. Creativity in an engineering setting relates to finding new ways of looking at things and this quality will allow an engineer to play an instrumental role in developing innovative products and project solutions. A creative mindset will also allow engineers in an industrial setting to deal effectively with the unexpected and adapt their approach accordingly.
Interestingly, the study makes recommendations for those involved in the recruitment, education and training of engineers to ensure that there is sufficient focus on investing in people ‘to bring out their ideas, agility and contributions’. It encourages personal development to create ‘a pipeline of versatile and digitally literate problem solvers who are prepared to be lifelong learners in a rapidly changing environment.’
Another key soft skill identified by the survey as being critical in the future engineering market is advanced communication skills. In the industrial landscape, engineers rarely work in isolation and must expect to collaborate widely with others, including non-technical colleagues, to anticipate change, exchange ideas and plan ahead.
It is also becoming increasingly important for engineers to communicate multifaceted technical solutions in a way that the customer can understand easily. This means being able to talk about solutions rather than technical detail so that customers can grasp the business case and objective.
Those entering the engineering jobs market or looking to develop their career in industrial engineering will already be aware of the emphasis employers place on having a continuous improvement mindset and an awareness of lean principles. They can now hone their CVs and interview techniques to demonstrate their non-technical abilities in a fast-moving and exciting jobs market.