Exploring science and engineering stakeholder views of the essential competencies for the 21st century workplace

Project Leaders: Dr Elaine Khoo & Karsten Zegwaard Researcher: Dr Mira Peter Research Assistant: Aminath Adam Project Mentor: Professor Bronwen Cowie

Project Dates: January 2017- December 2017

Project background

This study was a collaboration between the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research (WMIER) and Cooperative Education Unit at the University of Waikato. The project was partly funded by the University of Waikato Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) 2017 fund and intends to research multiple science and engineering stakeholders’ (employers, recent student alumni, current students and lecturers) perceptions of the graduate competencies and dispositions essential for students to be successful in today’s complex and dynamic workplace settings. Using a mixed-method approach, the research scoped stakeholders’ views of student work-readiness, identify current and future important graduate competencies, and, explored how stakeholders thought student learning could be better supported at the university and at the workplace. The findings  informed university curricula, teaching-learning and assessment, and ensured the relevancy of papers offered as part of the (re)design of university papers and graduate work-readiness initiatives.

Why was this research important

This project drew from Zegwaard and colleagues' (2002) original study on science and engineering employers’ perspectives on the important workplace competencies and associated rationales for these competencies as well as their perceptions on how to better prepare students for today’s workplaces. The results shed light on how the current preparation of science and engineering students were meeting employers expectations, provided feedback on future shifts employers saw, and allowed the Cooperative Education Unit to use this information to modify paper content delivery and learning activities in terms of student work-readiness.

How did this research help to inform others?

The overall aim of the research was to survey science and engineering stakeholder perceptions of the competencies and dispositions science and engineering students need to be successful in the workplace and to inform University curriculum (re)development and teaching and assessment approaches. To this end, stakeholder views on the extent to which university teaching-learning strategies were productive in preparing students for the workplace, views on current and future competencies important for students to be successful in the workplace, and their suggestions for enhancing current curriculum, pedagogy and assessment will be sought.

Publications/Project Outputs

Zegwaard, K. E., Khoo, E., Adam, A., & Peter, M. (2018). The shifting perceptions by science and engineering employers of desirable graduate competencies: Comparing now to 15 years ago. In K. Zegwaard, & K. Hoskyn (Eds.), New Zealand Association for Cooperative Education 2018 Conference Proceedings (pp. 53-56). Conference held at The Venue, Onetangi, Waiheke Island: New Zealand Association for Cooperative Education.

Khoo, E., Zegwaard, K. E., Adam, A., Peter, M., & Cowie, B. (2017, November). A collaborative framework for enhancing graduate competencies through university-industry partnerships. Paper presented at the New Zealand Association of Research in Education (NZARE2017), Hamilton, New Zealand.