ONBOARDING EARLY-CAREER ENGINEERS: KNOWLEDGE & SKILL ACQUISITION IN ROTATIONAL PROGRAMS
2020-03-09T18:36:12Z (GMT) by
Each year, employers invest substantial time, money, and resources in onboarding programs for new employees. In particular, engineering and manufacturing firms provide extensive training programs for new engineers. In one such program, a rotational onboarding program (ROP), new engineers rotate through assignments in multiple departments to gain experience in different parts of the employer’s organization.
This dissertation study investigates the knowledge and skills that early-career engineers develop through ROPs by comparing the experiences of engineers who had participated in an ROP and direct-hire engineers who had not. This study also identifies factors that contribute to the engineers’ perceptions of improvements in their knowledge and skills.
The researcher used an explanatory mixed-methods approach, with a quantitative phase followed by a qualitative phase. In the quantitative phase, a diverse sample of early-career engineers responded to a survey that captured their perceptions of the gains between their undergraduate and current levels of knowledge and skills in 11 learning outcome categories. The sample comprised 67 engineers who had participated in an ROP and 50 direct-hire engineers. The survey results indicate that the ROP engineers perceived significantly higher gains than the direct-hire engineers in five learning outcomes. In the qualitative phase, 24 of the engineers who had taken the survey were interviewed—14 engineers who had participated in an ROP and 10 direct-hire engineers. The interview data suggests that the ROP engineers developed professional networks within their ROP cohort and across the departments in which they had worked.
Finally, this dissertation study offers insights for both universities and employers. For universities, this study shows how the undergraduate experiences of early-career engineers contribute to their knowledge and skills in practice. For employers, the study’s findings show which aspects of ROPs most benefit early-career engineers.