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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Factors related to the continuing education needs of a selected group of professional engineers in British Columbia Wilson, Dave Camden


The rapidly increasing rate of advancement in the store of technical and scientific knowledge has greatly affected the working engineer, not only in British Columbia, but throughout the world. This acceleration of new technological knowledge has resulted in a serious problem within the engineering profession - that is the erosion (obsolescence) of technical knowledge within the profession due to the diminishing value of once proven methods, and an emergence of new concepts and developments. The engineer is finding that the education he received in the university may not be sufficient to meet his changing needs throughout his working life-time. Moreover, the qualifications of the engineer in today's swiftly advancing technical world are very perishable commodities. Therefore, constant exposure to new advances in science and technology is vital in order to maintain his intellectual skills and his job competence; and thus enhance the state-of-the-art in his profession. The purpose of this study was to construct a profile of the professional engineer in British Columbia, and to determine factors that were related to the nature and extent of his participation in continuing education; his feeling about the need for regular continuing education programs; and whether or not these needs are presently being met. The selected random sample represented 136 of the nearly 5,000 engineers with full registration in the Association of Professional Engineers in the Province of British Columbia. The data was collected by means of a personal interview schedule developed especially for a face-to-face exchange of information with the respondents. The research design established 327 factors to be used for development of the engineer's profile, and 178 factors to be used for cross-tabulation analysis for significant relationships with the 3 selected dependent variables. Of the 178 independent variables, 98 were related to the engineer's occupational environment, 20 were personal characteristics, 43 related to educational experiences, and 17 were geographic factors. The 3 dependent variables were: the engineer's level of participation in continuing education; his feeling about the need for regular continuing education programs; and whether or not these needs are presently being met. The chi square statistic coupled with linear and multiple regression analysis were used to determine statistically significant relationships between the variables. The "typical engineer" was found to be one who: was over 45 years of age, was registered in 1 of 3 major fields (civil, mechanical, or electrical), worked for a company for over 10 years, graduated over 10 years ago, had 3 or more employers, was involved in some supervision of others, was married and lived in the lower mainland. The "typical participant" in course work or training programs was a younger man, on a lower salary, with strong encouragement from his company and his spouse to continue his education. There was no statistically significant relationship between the 3 dependent variables, indicating no direct connection between the engineer's level of participation and his feelings about continuing education. However, independent factors related to all 3 dependent variables include the company policy toward continuing education, his level of satisfaction with his work, type of job function he performs, his age, income, number of years he has worked as an engineer, his home environment - especially the attitude of his spouse toward his participation, year and field of professional registration, sources of further education he would choose in the future, his attitude toward "technical obsolescence" of knowledge in the engineering profession, the distance to the professional society meetings, and the availability of courses in his local area. The engineer's level of participation in continuing education was significantly related to 9 occupational factors, 3 personal factors, 8 educational factors and 2 geographic factors. The engineer's feeling about the need for regular continuing education programs for his specific job function was significantly related to 27 occupational factors, 5 personal factors, 11 educational factors and 1 geographic factor. The engineer's feeling toward his continuing education needs presently being met was significantly related to 20 occupational factors, 4 personal factors, 8 educational factors and 2 geographic factors. The results of the study indicate a need for further research on the continuing education needs of specific groups of engineers such as engineers in isolated areas, older engineers, and engineers in interdisciplinary roles, Further study is also needed on the implications of self-directed learning, and the "technical obsolescence" of engineering knowledge in British Columbia. It was recommended that better use be made of the vast wealth of technical experience found in the B.C. engineering profession. Moreover, a concerted joint effort should be made on the part of the professional association, the educational institutions, industry, and the government to better serve the continuing education needs of the engineers in British Columbia.

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