Engineering as a Career Choice
Last month on the 9th of October, I attended the “Who wants to be an Engineer?” WAM training event hosted by a WAM Employer Abbott Vascular. The event focused on raising the awareness of engineering and why it can be a great career for everyone, including students with disabilities.
The event was formulated like “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” with guest contestants including Abbott Vascular, Dell Ireland, Engineers Ireland and myself! The audience was very diverse, there were careers officers, disability officers, lecturers from engineering faculties, guidance counsellors, employers and students and graduates of engineering. All of the speakers on the panel were quizzed by our quizmaster, Ann Heelan who is the Executive Director of AHEAD on questions relating to the field of engineering and disability and we got to use our ‘Lifelines’ with the audience. It was excellent to be amongst such an inspiring and diverse panel and to hear about the different perspectives.
The day kicked off with an overview of engineering and how broad this field is. For example chemical engineers combine physical and biological sciences to convert raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. Civil engineering comprises the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and natural built environments. Biomedical engineers combine problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to advance health care treatment. Mechanical engineers work with the design, production, and operation of different machines and tools. Aeronautical engineers working with the development of aircraft and air traffic control systems. Traffic engineers are focusing on the infrastructure necessary for transportation Software engineers are working with the maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches, they combine computer science with software.
So as you can see, engineering has many exciting and cool career choices and it is a degree in engineering opens many doors. The culture of engineering is not explicitly as traditional as we might think it is and it definitely comes up with solutions to make our environment a better place and comes up with really cool innovative ideas.
Throughout the event, the audience were keen to find out what kind of skills companies looking for when they hiring someone. It was mentioned frequently that employers are interested not only in the academic background but in other skills such as time management and teamwork. Employers do value if the applicant has been involved in extra-curricular activities or has had any kind of project experience, it doesn’t necessarily field related. However, it was mentioned that it can be harder for students with disabilities to get involved in extra-curricular activities, clubs & societies. Another point of the event was when and how is the best way to get students to choose engineering as a career choice. The employers stated as early as possible , to try and have the opportunity to meet and listen to engineering professionals about the what engineering can offer and the type of careers it can offer are the most useful for students both at entering third level education and at the transition to the employment.
There were also two graduates with disabilities who studied engineering on the panel discussion, they gave their account of what it was like for a student with a disability studying engineering and what is different or similar to those without disabilities. They said it is different because of certain access needs but on the other hand they are also regular students like everybody else, with similar goals and dreams. Having a disability is only part of their identity, not what describes them. The topic of disclosure was also covered during the event as we all know some students or graduates may be afraid to disclose because they think it will have a negative effect on their college life or on the hiring process. Both the panel and the audience’s feedback was that it is crucial to create a safe environment where students/graduates feel comfortable in disclosing and to encourage disclosure which can help to have a greater awareness and better accommodation of the student’s / graduates needs so they can be at their best in the work place.
What was really interesting is that the speakers highlighted why is beneficial having a diverse workforce, including having someone with a disability. An example is that a person with a disability can bring a different perspective or observe things more carefully which other employees may not recognise. Having a diverse workforce leads to a more creative work environment and increases the “Out of box thinking”.
As a final part of the event the participants were asked to exchange opinions what could be next steps to further raise awareness of engineering and why it can be a great career for everyone, including students with disabilities. Opinions such as encouragement of disclosure and engaging students with engineering as early as possible and to create opportunities for students to meet and hear from engineering professionals about their job and daily activities.
It was my pleasure to be a part of this event; bringing different stakeholders and participants together and hearing the perspectives of students with disabilities was excellent. I stepped into an open-minded atmosphere where all participants were eager to exchange and develop further ideas about how to raise awareness of engineering and why it can be a great career for everyone, including students with disabilities. I hope, all of us will spread the word and encourage students with and without disabilities to study engineering.
Agnes Sarolta Fazeka
The speakers at the Abbott Event
Agnes Sarolta Fazekas is from Budapest, Hungary. She is currently doing an Erasmus+ Placement with AHEAD to learn and gain experience about how to develop inclusive higher education and successful transition to employment for graduates with disability. She is university student in Budapest, and her research area is access and inclusion of students with disabilities in Higher Education.