New tool to help engineering students choose the right jobs

Summary

KU Leuven has developed a programme to help engineering students comprehend the roles that await them in the working world and use their final year to prepare for it

I prefer…

Researchers at KU Leuven have created a test to allow engineering students to learn what sort of role they are best suited to – and help employers get the best candidates for their jobs.

Led by the faculty of industrial engineering, the researchers developed a tool to prevent mismatching between new graduates and their future job. They defined three types of engineering roles: product leadership, operational excellence and customer focus.

Students complete a questionnaire in which they indicate how they would react in 23 specific situations, to define how strongly they identify with each of the three types. Based on their answers, they receive a report that tells them where they have particular talents or what they could improve.

Closing the gap

This allows them to decide what sort of role would be the best fit for their skills, and makes them more aware of the various job options available to engineering graduates. More than 100 people from 20 businesses were involved in the development of the Prefer test, and it will be further refined based on industry feedback.

“Our tool aims to close the gap between graduates and industry,” said PhD student Sofie Craps. “Input from business was important and extremely valuable. The enthusiasm from industry was sometimes overwhelming; there is clearly a need for such an instrument.”

Students can take the test individually, and lecturers can use the tool during classes. “At KU Leuven, we will systematically build Prefer into our new curriculum for the industrial engineering course,” explained professor Greet Langie, vice dean of the faculty of industrial engineering and promotor of the project that developed the test.

In an ideal world, graduate engineers would apply to us with the Prefer report in their portfolio

- Alex Massoels of Engie

In the first year, students will be familiarised with the three types of jobs via “day with the engineer” events. Langie: “Then the focus will gradually shift towards the individual student: What type is closest to their profile? In the final year they can decide for themselves which skills they would like to develop further.”

Alex Massoels of energy company Engie, was involved in developing the test. “In an ideal world, graduate engineers would apply to us with the Prefer report in their portfolio,” he said. “That way we would immediately be able to see their qualities and know in which functions they could fully utilise their talents.”

Prefer – Professional Roles Model for Future EngineeRs – was financed by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme and is a collaboration between researchers at KU Leuven, TU Delft and TU Dublin.

Photo courtesy KU Leuven