In the ever-changing field of technology, engineers are expected to continue learning as part of the job. Flexibility in engineering often means improving existing skill sets and developing new skills. And if being able to adapt to changing conditions is one of the most important skills an engineer can have, what do engineers see as barriers to building those skills?
machine designThe 2022 Salary Survey, which polled a cross-section of readers, provides a glimpse into the challenges facing engineers and the opportunities to help employers right-size their staffing efforts.
Watch this video with Machine Design Editors for more details.
More than 40% of all participants in this year’s survey have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. This basic education is often not sufficient to support the requirements or qualifications of the ongoing job. Typically, engineers will continue education and training while performing professional duties to stay current.
Focusing on the survey questions related to education, we highlight some insights into ongoing education patterns and respondents’ preferences.
you get what you pay for
The survey asked: “What are some ways you would like to continue your engineering education?”
Respondents answered: engineering videos (43.55%), seminars (34.48%), webcasts (37.10%), engineering/technology publications (35.48%), engineering/technology publication websites (31.05%), white papers (33.47%), as well as in-person trade shows and conferences (29.64%) ranked favorably among respondents. At the bottom of their list of priorities were college and employer-sponsored courses in the classroom (15.73%), online discussion forums (15.12%) and podcasts (12.10%).
Respondents were then asked to indicate which forms of education were paid for by their employers. In line with engineers’ learning preferences, the survey showed that employers were most likely to pay for employee attendance at trade shows and conferences (37.7%), as well as seminars (33.67%). Only 22.78% paid for certificate or college tuition, and 25.81% paid for engineering association dues.
When asked what the biggest challenges were in staying up to date with engineering information relevant to your work, the most common answer was time. But if respondents were feeling short of time, they were further challenged to find information that applied to their job responsibilities. Sifting through useful, relevant information from an abundance of online sources, getting an overview on emerging technologies, and finding specialized courses were some of the barriers cited.
Concern about knowing the rapidly changing technology and what is most relevant to the company was a common one. One respondent asked, “What technological developments are relevant to my company, and how soon will they be available or at a reasonable cost”. Another pointed to the fact that the cost of the new technology was “too high to be contained by management.”
At least some respondents indicated a generational divide among engineers and their ability to adapt technological advances to their current work environments. “As you get older, you tend to be a little slower at learning new skills, and you need to put more effort into learning and improving,” expressed one respondent. “Young talent is abundant, and he has the advantage of age,” said another.
Question of trust and transparency
There were other interesting comments that cropped up in the survey. One concern was that some publications fail to meet the needs of their engineering audiences, and “get annoyed by unscrupulous technical publications that try to steer the industry towards certain trends.”
Many others said that the task of “getting accurate information and reviews with enough customer specifications” was difficult. “Finding accurate information and reviews with enough customer specifics,” echoed another sentiment on the subject.
All that said, perception matters. Engineers, like most employees, want to be heard. They want to contribute and be a part of something worthwhile. All of this speaks to their appreciation for the effort their employer has made for their livelihood and their willingness to invest in their professional development.