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4 Cross-Disciplinary Skills All Engineers Need

4 Cross-Disciplinary Skills All Engineers Need main image

Sponsored by University College Cork

Engineering is a fast-growing and in-demand field requiring complex expertise and interdisciplinary knowledge across different areas of science and technology, whether it’s mechanical, civil, electrical, or chemical engineering.

Rapid developments in technology and the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has seen a huge revival in the way in which engineering works in industry. Projects require an integration of knowledge and skills from a wide range of engineering disciplines with distinctions between them blurring massively.

If you’re hoping to pursue a career in the industry, there are a few key cross-disciplinary skills employers are looking out for.

Software literacy

Software is the great enabler when it comes to solving the often complex problems of engineering design. The most popular computer programs of today are critical knowledge for any engineer – from Computer-Aided Design (programs like AutoCAD, and CATIA), to Systems Design (programs such as MatLAB, and SimProcess), Process Simulation (programs such as ANSYS, and Flow3D) to the ability to program one’s own analysis using programs such as C++, VBA, and Python.

Gold standards are a critical resource for any civil, mechanical, chemical, and agronomical engineers – there’s no engineering discipline where competent software use is not a critical skill.

Automation and data

It’s becoming increasingly evident that we should no longer expect automation and robotics to be just a domain for electronic and mechanical engineers.

Every aspect of life, let alone any engineering that supports it, is being affected in some way by the developments in making machine elements being able to act ‘smart’. From intelligent buildings for civil engineers to advanced process control to chemical engineers, to robotic operation of processes in a food factory, understanding the design and operation of automated systems and how to make them ‘smart’ is a core skill for any engineer.

This ‘smartness’ given to automated systems comes from the ability to capture and analyze data in order for us to ‘tell’ the automated system how to ‘experience its surroundings’ and as a result – how to ‘behave’ making data analytics a core theme across all areas of engineering.

Strategic planning

It’s essential for engineers across every discipline to familiarize themselves with standard management methodologies and know how and when to prioritize resources. The best engineers will also be mindful of risks and plan accordingly, while conducting regular reviews of all processes.

Whatever engineering project it is, it will only be successful if the engineers are able to deploy resources timely and effectively to serve the strategic objectives that underpin the rationale of that project to whoever commissioned it.

Quality systems

Engineers need to be meticulous and have an impeccable eye for detail when it comes to quality control and quality assurance.

Modern industry and regulatory agencies throughout the world demand verifiable, robust, consistent and effective quality systems in operation to ensure not only the quality promised to clients and consumers but also safety, for the company’s own workers, the product or service users, and furthermore, the environment and society in general.

Every engineer, regardless of their area of work, must have core skills in deploying effective quality systems, risk assessments, environmental impacts, to develop and implement proper Standard Operating Procedures that ensure quality and safety everywhere.

It’s not just about knowing what skills you need – but also knowing why you need them

“The borders between [engineering] disciplines are wearing out, and it’s more common to find that as the professional activity of an engineer graduated in a given discipline progresses, it increasingly requires an understanding of issues from other disciplines,” explained Dr Jorge Oliveira, Head of the School of Engineering at University College Cork (UCC).

“For instance, almost all engineers, either civil, mechanical or chemical, would need to understand instrumentation, automation and control – electronic engineers need to understand fluids and heat when working for biomedical applications, and so on.”

Many of these skills can only be developed with hands-on experience, which is why engineering degree programs at University College Cork along with its teaching are “strongly connected to the industrial sectors that are strong around us,” said Dr Oliveira.

“UCC provides students with a better perception of what the major industrial sectors are like and what type of work different engineers would be having.”

It’s important to recognize there are transparent and definitive links between the differing types of engineering – which is why first-year engineering students at University College Cork learn the fundamentals of all foundation disciplines of engineering before committing to a specific program later on in their degree. 

It’s only when they go into their second year they’re able to specialize, and in their fourth year (should they choose to study the integrated master’s pathway) they undertake an eight-month placement at a local firm.

“Students have experiences linking to pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical, as well as the food and drink industries with a view to the process and chemical engineers, electronics, biomedical and embedded devices for the electrical and electronic engineers, construction, project management and structures for civil engineers, energy and power for energy and civil & environmental engineers, and so on.

“Notwithstanding, we are also finding exclusive links between industrial sectors and engineering disciplines wearing off, with opportunities for all types of engineers being made available in various companies” said Dr Oliveira.

Keeleng Otsile k, sandeep k & 2 others saved this
Written by Stephanie Lukins
As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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