In a survey of mechanical engineering department heads, 52 percent thought their graduates had strong communication skills while only 20 percent thought these same skills were lacking. Yet in a parallel survey of industry representatives, only 9 percent thought recent engineering grads’ communication skills were strong, while a whopping 52 percent thought those same skills were weak.
The disparity may lie in the fact that the department heads aren’t seeing the poorly written documents their employees are producing; they often see only the final product that has been revised many times over. Is your department’s efficiency being hurt because your employees aren’t effective communicators?
Causes of Poor Communication Skills in Engineering
- Engineers aren’t required to take writing classes in college as a part of their degree’s curriculum.
- Communication assignments in college don’t match what industry managers are looking for in graduates from engineering programs.
- Without enough expertise, it’s often difficult for recent engineering graduates to realize which principles from classroom assignments to apply, and which to leave out, when presenting in various professional settings.
- What constitutes strong communication skills in the classroom often differs considerably from what is expected in a professional engineering setting.
How to Combat the Problem
- University engineering departments need to do a better job of preparing students for employment by teaching them how to write and what’s expected in terms of written communication in the workplace.
- Teach students how to be effective communicators by emphasizing the fact that writing is a primary, not a secondary, part of their jobs.
- Supplement their hard skills training with “soft skills” training such as writing.