Engineering students

What does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

Engineering students

Article provided by Sarah Acton, a metalworking fluids sales engineer, who writes for Akramatic Engineering

For some time now, there has been a bit of a disconnect between how universities and engineering companies — and even the world at large — view the ideal engineering graduate.

According to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, nearly 3 out of 4 businesses are worried about the practical, work-related skills of graduated students — and if they are able enough to enter into the work. The concern here being, that engineering graduates have plenty of academic knowledge, but in a way that doesn’t really translate well outside of educational institutions.

For engineers, this is yet another concern to be added to the pile. There is already a massive recruitment shortage in engineering. The last thing the sector needs is a skills shortage in the few who do apply.

Inexperienced graduates and the productivity gap

It is not uncommon to hear about industry professionals struggling with graduates who appear to lack the skills. I personally know an acquaintance who worked in the motorsport industry, developing engines for racing cars. His stories often involved new recruits fresh from university, who didn’t have a clue about many practical methods and protocols.

This meant that it took a while to gradually introduce students to the process, meaning up to six months of productivity was stalled by the inexperience.

If there is just one industry where you can’t fake it until you make it, it’s engineering. After all the well-put-together presentations, and all the talk of theory and analysis, inevitably an engineer will actually have to sit down and make something, using practical skills that work.

Another manifestation of this “fake it” attitude resides in graduates who think degrees from prestigious universities will automatically give them a head up when it comes to seeking employment. It won’t. And as we have been seeing, some of the top-university students are losing out to job applicants from less attractive (on paper) universities because of a lack of practical experience.

Practicality and ‘side projects’

But even if a university course itself is mostly theoretical, there’s still lots to do voluntarily within the university to strengthen a CV application.

One such thing is the Formula Student competition. It challenges students to build racing cars, and to them race them all over the world. And despite a perception that such voluntary acts are ‘side projects’ most employers will see them as integral parts to learning and development.

For example with Formula Student, what the job applicant can essentially say is that they have worked within a team of 40 or more students, with a modest project budget (or perhaps £100,000), to build an incredibly complicated, functioning vehicle.

Practical experience has been linked with better overall academic performances and, with all that learning and achievement to talk about, it’s hardly surprising that students with side projects also perform much better in interviews.

In short, the perfect engineering graduate isn’t necessarily prestigious university alumni. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Practical experience is king, above all, background or education.

Minorities in engineering 

What then, can we say for minorities in engineering? Both BME and women are underrepresented (with women being ‘severely’ underrepresented according to Engineering UK’s State of the Nation report). If there’s anything we can do culturally to boost their numbers — which is important given the recruitment shortfalls we are currently facing — it’s that we make sure engineering is open to everyone.

To do this we don’t even have to make changes that are terribly ambitious. We only have to speak to minorities about possibilities in the world of engineering. From personal experience, I’ve spoken to many women — engineers and non-engineers — who’ve said that engineering was never advertised to them as a possible career growing up. Engineering needs to be advertised as suitable and welcoming no matter what you look like.

It’s also true that underrepresented groups are having success in building networks to help open up the field. Networking is a great place for women and BME candidates to build up contacts, find out about opportunities, and to reframe the sector.

To summarise 

In short: the perfect engineer is one who has good practical skills. It does not matter if you attend the most expensive, most privileged, or a lesser known education centre.

In terms of physicality, how the perfect engineer “looks” shouldn’t matter. But unfortunately, it almost certainly still does in some job roles, and parts of the industry. But that is starting to change. With more inclusive outreach campaigns to younger women in education, more visible representation in the sector, and with networking for underrepresented minorities, hopefully the only thing future engineers will have to worry about is their practical experience.


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A career in Technology is not what you expect | RBS Graduate Programme

Female Graduate in technology

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When you think of a career in Technology, what springs to mind?

  • Being at the forefront of cutting edge developments, innovation, creativity and helping to drive businesses forward?
  • Whether studying a related Degree or not, a career in here could provide you with the experiences you least expect
  • We all use it, so why not be a part of it, helping to build our bank for the future
  • Keep an open mind, and remember:

It’s not all about coding!

  • Graduates use a range of skills and the wide variety of roles and our people reflect this (only 3 of our Graduates studied Computer Science in our 2014 intake).
  • All roles will be technical in nature, so an analytical mindset will help, but these roles are suitable for Graduates interested in a wide range of careers – Graduates go on to be Business Analysts or Project Managers as well as Software Developers

You don’t need experience

  • Learning and development is at the very heart of the Graduate Programme.
  • A complete training programme is provided to bring everyone up to the same level.
  • Your Manager provides you with a project that has been pre approved with clearly defined objectives which are achievable at your level of experience.
  • The Services Graduate Programme will bring a greater breadth of opportunities, and we still have opportunities available in Edinburgh starting this September.

APPLY TODAY

The future you shape at RBS has the potential to be impressive. We’re an international financial services organisation operating in the UK, Europe, the Americas and Asia. We have a clear vision for the future and you’ll help make it a reality.

RBS is a bank with a history of looking ahead. Since we were established by Royal Charter in 1727, we have granted the world’s first overdraft, launched the first mobile bank and developed the first fully functional smartphone banking app.

Graduate opportunities in Technology & Transformation:

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RBS is an empowering place to work. We believe there’s a right way to do business and we’ve created a fair, open, honest culture that will value the part you play. Get ready to drive positive change as you rise to the challenge of building a better bank for our customers.

We have high expectations of our employees and we’ll give you the tools and support to deliver on them. After all, the sooner you reach your potential, the sooner you can start shaping our future. Expect exposure to live projects and lots of responsibility from the word go, supported by a formal induction and structured training from industry experts.

Alongside your professional progress, we’re equally interested in your personal, ethical and social development. You’ll find four deeply-held values driving your work at RBS: serving customers, working together, doing the right thing and thinking long term. These are the principles making us a stronger bank and they’re something you need to believe in.

Prepare for broader horizons too. We’re an international bank with graduate opportunities on an impressive scale, whatever your degree subject. We have careers for analytical minds, strategic thinkers, technology heads and business brains. Wherever you join, you’ll get to see a huge range of business areas, with genuine internal mobility on offer.

What you can expect

An experience that spans all of the Services divisions including: technology development, infrastructure, technical architecture, transformation and change. The holistic approach will give you insight into how we impact the customer and work towards simplifying and creating new solutions for them. Technology & Transformation is a diverse field with functions and specialist teams in over 30 countries. It’s the key to everything we do and allows us to trade across time zones, perform complex calculations, transfer funds and disseminate information.

As a graduate based in Edinburgh, you'll complete placements around our business. You could work on major international change programmes or the delivery of next-generation solutions and play a vital part in building and maintaining the technology which allows us to retain our competitive edge. Throughout, your work will touch all aspects of RBS, so variety – and the chance to explore the full spectrum of what we do – is guaranteed.

Who we are looking for

You don’t need to come to us with advanced technical skills. Many of our graduate trainees have degrees in engineering, mathematics, economics, computing and sciences. But we’ll consider anyone showing a keen interest in and aptitude for technology. Plus, as well as technical development you will be encouraged to develop broader capabilities such as communication, project management, team working and influencing skills.

It’s also important that you’re resilient, articulate and great with people. This isn’t an inward-looking business area: you’ll establish and maintain strong relationships with stakeholders at all levels and work across different sites as you do so.

Whatever your degree discipline, we ask all our graduates to have a minimum 2:1. We’ll also consider your top three A-level (or equivalent) grades from the first sitting (excluding General Studies) and look for a minimum of 300 UCAS points.

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