This study is a work-in-progress investigating the experiences most salient to newly hired engineers in an electric power utility as they began new jobs. The study is based on an inductive, qualitative design using semi-structured interviews with 12 newly hired engineers. It was the process of integrating and developing the individual’s competencies to better match the requirements of the job (i.e., socialization or onboarding) that was an indicator of job performance—and the focus of this study. The characteristics of this competency matching during the first year of their new employment was related to the newly hired engineers’ education (for the new graduates), and job experiences (for experienced hires)--both acquired from their schooling and previous work.
The interviews of newly hired engineers provided in-depth reports of their experiences developing and refining their technical competencies, as well as their professional competencies within the organization. These experiences clearly portray the complexities of how the newcomers worked out the requirements of integrating into the organization. The new hires reported that many of the requirements of the job were not clearly defined or presented; rather, they often learned through trial-and-error.
Initial findings indicate that the learning experiences of these newcomers cluster around four content areas of learning aided by facilitating processes in the development of competence.The findings of this study corroborate and elaborate on previous work done on the preparation and transition of engineering graduates from school-to-work, and provide new insights into the process of integrating individual competencies into job requirements. The contribution of this work highlights how newcomers learned about their new jobs and what competencies they drew upon from their education, as well as how they applied their competencies to the practice of engineering. This included various types of formal, informal, incidental and social learning building upon their previous educational and work experiences, self-directed learning on the job, and the mentoring obtained from more experienced insiders.
The implications of this work inform the development of professional engineers broadly for STEM careers, and specifically for the energy industry, which is part of the increasing interdisciplinarity and convergence of a wide range of technical fields.
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