Dr. Anita R. Vila-Parrish, NC State Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, along with S. Streiner of the University of Pittsburgh and G. Warnick of Brigham Young University explored the importance that employers place on engineering global competencies when making hiring decisions in a recent paper. The paper, published in the International Journal of Engineering Education, supports the importance for newly graduated engineering students to be equipped with global competencies before entering the workforce.
Based on the study of 442 employers from over 20 multinational companies, the top five global competencies identified include the ability to: (1) identify risks and formulate solutions/plans to mitigate risks, (2) design a system, solution, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints, (3) appreciate and understand different cultures, (4) work on international teams, (5) communicate cross-culturally. These findings are consistent with other research which supports the notion that skills beyond technical competence are critical to being a successful globally competent engineer.
Dr. Vila-Parrish reflects on the research and implications for the NC State community by responding to a few questions.
Five Questions with Anita Vila-Parrish:
- What are the key take-a-ways that you learned from multinational companies through your research?
What I thought was interesting were that the results were not a one size fits all. Some skills were valued by different industry segments, for example, language skills were valued significantly higher by construction/civil engineering employers.
- What can colleges and universities learn from this research?
I think that at the department level, we need to think about how our curriculum develops these critical skills. Over 50% of the employers surveyed worked more than 25% of their time with colleagues outside of their home country. This is the global world that our engineering students are entering today.
- What advice would you give to students who are thinking about studying abroad?
Think about what skills you hope to learn while you are abroad and be ready to articulate those to prospective employers.
- For those who are planning to study abroad, how can they make the most out of the experience to prepare them for their career?
Immerse yourself in the culture. When I was working at Dell Computers in order to be successful working with colleagues in Asia and Europe you had to understand the culture- both work and life. If you don’t come away with this knowledge it is a missed opportunity. In order to do that you will have to get outside of your comfort zone!
- Is there anything else you would like to communicate to the wider NC State community on this subject?
I have been so excited to be part of the curriculum integration effort which aims to minimize the barriers for engineers to study abroad by promoting programs that align with our programs. I also think that beyond engaging industry to inform what we are doing in and outside the classroom to prepare our students it is equally important to engage students in this conversation. That is the subject of one of my next research projects.
NC State administrators, faculty, staff and advisers are invited to join a Summit on Global Learning March 29th to explore intercultural competencies across the disciplines. Attendees will hear more about Dr. Vila-Parrish’s research at the summit and can find the full publication, “An Exploratory Study of Global Competencies Considered by Multinational Companies: A Hiring Perspective” published in the International Journal of Engineering Education.