HomeCareersA glance at engineering skill gaps, and how to address them

    A glance at engineering skill gaps, and how to address them


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    By Adriaan Roets, Dr Akhlaqur Rahman, Dr Yuanyuan Fan, Dr Milind Siddhpura, Dr Arti Siddhpura and Dr Ana Evangelista

    Looking at the year ahead, we approached EIT lecturers, esteemed academics and industry professionals, to share their wisdom and identify potential engineering skill gaps which could be faced in 2023.

    We posed the following three questions to each of our experts:

    1. What are some skill gaps engineers could possibly face in a discipline?
    2. How can we address these skill gaps?
    3. What are three essential tools engineers need within this discipline?

    We broke down their answers to address Industrial Automation, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

    Industrial Automation

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    Dr Akhlaqur Rahman is the Academic Course Coordinator and Lecturer for the School of Industrial Automation at EIT. AK’s research interests include cloud networked robotics, task offloading, Industry 4.0 Automation, energy efficiency, optimization, smart manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    What are 3 skill gaps engineers could potentially face in Industrial Automation?

    In the current age of Industry 4.0, where the automation space includes convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT), skill sets need to be upgraded over a period of time.

    Three skill gaps the Engineers are facing to cope with the needs of industry 4.0 are:

    Proper utilization of data and knowledge of data security;
    Changing communication protocols and architecture;
    Advanced skills required for digital transformation pertain to IT.

    How can we address these skill gaps?

    Get engineers trained in Artificial Intelligence, as well as Data Analytics.
    Increase focus on cyber security and IT/OT convergence.
    Making IT skills a necessary fundamental knowledge for engineers working in this space.

    What are three essential tools engineers need within this discipline?

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    While SCADA and PLC are the basis of Industrial Automation, Machine Learning is the third crucial element that helps engineers fill the different roles needed in the automation space in Industry 4.0:

    Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)
    Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
    Machine Learning (ML)

    Electrical Engineering

    Dr Yuanyuan Fan (left) is EIT’s Course Coordinator and On-Campus Lecturer. Dr Yuanyuan has publications from power system analysis to machine learning-based engineering practices and education behind her name.

    For a sustainable energy future, she believes electrical engineers should take initiatives to broaden their knowledge and in the meanwhile collaborate with data communication engineers, automation engineers, data scientists, and policymakers.

    She also enjoys following groups pertinent to engineering on LinkedIn, and mentions the following pages as worth hubs of information and news.

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    GE; Vestas; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; International Energy Agency; Engineers Australia; AEMO; Global Wind Energy Council and Hydrogen Europe.

    Three skill gaps engineers could potentially face in electrical engineering?

    • Interdisciplinary knowledge.
      That is to say enough knowledge between engineering disciplines and even other fields like business or entrepreneurship.
    • Leadership and management skills.
      This will mean engineers can effectively run their own business, or use these skills to their benefit in a corporate setting.
    • Creating a disconnection between academia and industry.
      Both these are highly important to engineers, but within the context of work industry knowledge could inform academic work, and vice versa. This is especially true within the modern setting where academia needs to reflect the industry to train engineers capable of being employed almost immediately.

    Ways to address these skill gaps:

    • Short training courses
      This will help establish connections between engineering principles and make it better to have broader knowledge.
    • Soft skills training
      In the context of work, this could mean interpersonal skills development, communication or even courses on subjects like sociology. These courses can help engineers develop EQ or even just make it possible to be well-rounded in their personal and work lives.
    • Conducting industry-based applied research
      Academia that works with industry creates a platform where both can benefit. Financially academia would benefit from Industry if new knowledge is introduced within student acceleration, while industry would have candidates that have working and academic knowledge of particular industries.

    What are some essential tools engineers need to be good at their jobs?

    • Project management tools.
      We recently looked at what is needed to make it as an electrical engineer.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Dr Milind Siddhpura (left) is EIT’s Course Coordinator and On-Campus Lecturer at our School of Mechanical and Civil Engineering. In his current role as a Course Coordinator in engineering at EIT, he has been instrumental in developing and enhancing our courses’ focus on Mechanical and Civil Engineering disciplines at macroscopic and microscopic levels.

    Three skill gaps engineers could potentially face in Mechanical Engineering?

    Hands-on experience with equipment and software used in industry.
    Professional practice: Ethics, Professionalism, Communication and Networking.
    The technological gap in theory vs. the specific industry.

    What are some ways to address these skill gaps?

    • It might be not be easy to work on some industrial equipment, but students can always research the software industry uses on daily basis and learn the software while they study. That’s how to address point one in the answer to question one.
    • Since these (point two in question one) are generic soft skills practised everywhere in the industry, the student should take every opportunity to work on these while they are studying.
    • Concerning point three in question one, no matter how well a course is designed, it can’t cater to all the sub-disciplinary areas, so students need to be always on the lookout for extending their knowledge by researching what is happening in the specific industry they aim to work in the near future.

    What are some essential tools engineers need to be good at their jobs?

    • To answer point one, addressed in question one, research about specific industry software is needed. Most widely used software in Mechanical Engineering are CAD software (AutoCAD, SolidWorks); Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software like ANSYS; Manufacturing software: SolidCAM; Generic software: Microsoft Office (Outlook, Teams, Excel, Word, PPT).
    • Attending Networking Events; PowerPoint presentations; Public speaking; Actively participating on LinkedIn. That are a few streamlined ways to address point two of question one.
    • To address point three of question one we need research and students need to subscribe to industry websites, read journal articles and have a membership in technical societies.

    Civil Engineering

    Dr Ana Evangelista is EIT’s on-campus lecturer at our School of Civil Engineering. She started her career coordinating and teaching units at the School of Civil Engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). She is also a course coordinator on top of being a lecturer – Civil Engineering – at EIT working collaboratively with academics and staff, from VET to Doctor of Engineering. Also, she is a member of the Academic Board and coordinator of the Work Integrated Learning program.

    Three skill gaps engineers could potentially face within Civil Engineering?

    There is a current demand for infrastructure projects, civil engineers need to demonstrate skills in modern technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD), programming/coding, and project management.

    Ways to address these skill gaps

    In addition to Engineering Fundamentals, civil engineers need to search for continuous qualification and professional development. Furthermore, it is important to be proactive via a self-learning attitude.

    Three essential tools Civil Engineers need to be good at their jobs?

    Structural analysis software, Engineering Surveying Equipment, Building Information Modelling (BIM) software.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Dr Arti Siddhpura (left) is EIT’s Course Coordinator – Graduate Certificate in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering. She oversees much of the work within Mechanical Engineering.

    What are some skill gaps engineers could potentially face in Mechanical Engineering?

    • Analytical ability and mathematics (People working in the area of safety, risk and reliability need to have skills to collect and analyze data).
    • Regulation knowledge.
    • Understanding the business-specific requirements.

    Ways to address these skill gaps…

    1. Stay up-to-date with the news and knowledge about new techniques and software being used in the industry. Get trained when needed.
    2. The safety and risk area are highly regulated by the government and the regulations are constantly changing. It is worth investing some time to stay up to date on all changes and understand those updates.
    3. Safety and risk management is approached differently for different types of industries and within an organization. As a safety, risk and reliability engineer, one needs to understand the operational requirements of each department and the business. Because these are related to the specific industry, students need to be keen to grab every opportunity to network with industry experts.

    Do some essential tools engineers need to be good at their jobs?

    • Various basic and advanced statistical techniques (One of our GCSR units is totally dedicated to this)Local government websites, pieces of training and/or webinars, and IEC standards (One of our GCSR units covers this)
    • Attending networking events, podcasts/webinars from industry experts.

    Some more areas for engineers to look into according to Dr Arti Siddhpura
    Ethics, Professionalism, Communication and Networking

    Ways to address: Since these are generic soft skills practised everywhere in the industry, a student should take every opportunity to work on these while they are studying.

    Tools students need to learn: Attending Networking events; PowerPoint presentations; Public speaking; Actively participating on LinkedIn.

    The technological gap in theory vs specific industry

    Ways to address: No matter how well a course is designed, it can’t cater to all the sub-disciplinary areas, so students need to be always on the lookout for extending their knowledge by researching what is happening in the specific industry they aim to work in near future.

    Tools students need to learn: Research and subscribe to industry websites; Reading Journal Articles; Membership in technical societies.

    Some additional resources engineers should subscribe to for well-rounded information


    It remains a standard in high-powered programming, and its uses are multidisciplinary.

    For something like Machine Learning or AI Engineering, it is one of the best programs engineers need to master. Luckily short courses or additional courses, even those outside of engineering is available in abundance.

    EIT for instance offers a Professional Certificate of Competency in Practical Python for Engineers & Technicians that focuses on electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial automation, and civil engineering.

    Electrical Engineering applications include file processing (conversion from one format to another such as XML to CSV), automation of test equipment and data (such as waveforms for power quality problems), and database management (such as SQL).

    Mechanical Engineering is often considered to be disconnected from the need for programming knowledge. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Areas such as numerical analysis (with awkward boundary conditions) in manufacturing, automotive, energy spheres of activity, and thermodynamics (ranging from fluid dynamics to chemical kinetics) require programming knowledge. It is also imperative in computational fluid dynamics.

    Civil Engineering applications include risk assessment and mitigation for floods, cyclones, and earthquakes, prediction of traffic trends, stress analysis of data from bridges, and analysis of vast amounts of geotechnical data.

    Industrial Automation application includes analysis of vast amounts of data from processes, logging data over a Modbus communication link, and preventative maintenance. It also includes translating a PLC database and converting this into a bunch of HTML files.

    Get to know BIM

    Building Information Modeling (BIM) methodology can improve the decision-making process of building projects, many professionals are still limited to using BIM-based tools to generate virtual models for geometric representation and rendering.

    BIM application possibilities are still not widespread in the market, yet BIM is advantageous in centralizing all data in the same three-dimensional model, allowing different analyses and simulations to be carried out.

    This enables professionals, for example, to accurately assess the costs associated with the construction during the design phase of the project, which ensures the minimization of economic impacts. Besides, it can guarantee the development of more sustainable buildings, with optimized thermal, acoustic and lighting performances, and with conscious consumption of energy and water.

    But outside of straight engineering, the BIM application can be used for facility management and the use of the BIM concept to benefit the maintenance and repair of heritage buildings. BIM-based software enables professionals to reduce costs, detect design errors, and track building timelines. Furthermore, other advantages continue to emerge as the BIM methodology can be integrated with multiple concepts and be used throughout the entire building lifecycle.

    Important BIM tools include Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Navisworks, Autodesk BIM 360, Graphisoft Archicad and BricsCAD BIM.

    Each of these is almost power tools that are invaluable in terms of engineering.  Originally published by Engineering Institute of Technology

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