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Title: Examination of the engineering technology career-related interest and choices impacting career pathways in a rapidly changing marketplace: A qualitative case study
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Academy of Human Resource Development Conference in the Americas
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National Science Foundation
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  1. To gain a deeper understanding of the career decisions of undergraduate engineering students, this research paper explores the differences between students who show a high degree of career certainty and those who are rather uncertain about what their professional future should look like. These analyses were based on a dataset from a nationwide survey of engineering undergraduates (n=5,819) from 27 institutions in the United States. The survey was designed with an interest in understanding engineering students’ career pathways. For the purpose of this study, students were designated as either “career uncertain” or “career certain” according to their survey answers. Thosemore »two groups were then compared against a variety of background characteristics, past experiences and personality variables. The results suggest that career uncertain and career certain students do not differ on background variables such as gender, age or family income. However, when it comes to students’ past experiences, the percentage of students who had already gained internship experiences during their time in college was significantly higher among career certain students as compared to career uncertain students. As expected, seniors were more certain about their professional future than juniors. Similarly, a higher percentage of career certain students reported talking about their professional future with other students or faculty members more frequently. Furthermore, career certain students were significantly more likely to show a higher level of innovation self-efficacy and engineering task self-efficacy. In addition, career certain students were more likely to have career goals that involved innovation and they also considered several job characteristics as more important than did uncertain students. On average, career certain engineering students were also more certain about staying in engineering one, five and ten years after graduation. Overall, the results of this research suggest that more hands-on experiences and fostering stronger beliefs in their engineering skills can contribute to undergraduates becoming more certain about their future professional careers.« less
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  3. The purpose of the Research in the Formation of Engineers National Science Foundation funded project, Developing Engineering Experiences and Pathways in Engineering Technology Career Formation (D.E.E.P. Engineering Technology Career Formation), is to develop a greater understanding of the professional identity, institutional culture, and formation of engineer technicians and technologists (ET) who are prepared at two-year colleges. ET professionals are important hands-on members of engineering teams who have specialized knowledge of components and engineering systems. Little research on career development and the role of ET in the workforce has previously been conducted prompting national organizations such as NSF and the Nationalmore »Academy of Sciences to prompt more research in this area [1]. The primary objectives of this project are to: (a) identify dimensions of career orientations and anchors at various stages of professional preparation and map to ET career pathways, (b) develop an empirical framework, incorporating individual career anchors and effect of institutional culture, for understanding ET professional formation, and (c) develop and pilot interventions aimed at transforming engineering formation systems in ET contexts. The three interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks integrated to guide design and analysis of this research study are social cognitive career theory (SCCT) [2], Schein’s career anchors which focuses on individual career orientation [3], and the Hughes value framework focused on the organization [4]. SCCT which links self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, and personal goals to educational and career decisions and outcomes ties the individual career anchors to the institutional context of the Hughes framework [2]. To date, the project has collected and analyzed quantitative data from over 330 participants who are two-year college ET students, two-year college transfer students, and early career ET professionals. Qualitative data from historical institutional documents has also been collected and analyzed. Initial analyses have revealed gaps and needed areas of support for ET students in the area of professional formation. Thus far, the identified gaps are in institutional policy (i.e. lack of articulation agreements), needed faculty professional development (i.e. two-year faculty on specific career development and professional ET formation needs and four-year faculty on unique needs of transfer students), missing curriculum and resources supporting career development and professional formation of ET students, and integration of transfer student services focusing on connecting faculty and advisors across both institutional levels and types of programs. Significant gaps in the research promoting understanding of the role of ET and unique professional formation needs of these students were also confirmed. This project has been successful at helping to broaden participation in ET engineering education through integrating new participants into activities (new four-year institutional stakeholders, new industry partners, new faculty and staff directly and indirectly working with ET students) and through promoting disciplinary (engineering education and ET) and cross disciplinary collaborations (human resource development, higher education leadership, and student affairs). With one year remaining before completion of this project, this project has promoted a better understanding of student and faculty barriers supporting career development for ET students and identified need for career development resources and curriculum in ET. Words: 498 References [1] National Academy of Engineering. (2016). Engineering technology education in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. [2] Lent, R.W., & Brown, S.B. (1996). Social cognitive approach to career development: An overivew. Career Development Quarterly, 44, 310-321. [3] Schein, E. (1996). Career anchors revisited: Implications for career development in the 21st century. Academy of Management Executive, 10(4), 80-88. [4] Hughes, C. (2014, Spring). Conceptualizing the five values of people and technology development: Implications for human resource managmeent and development. Workforce Education Forum, 37(1), 23-44.« less