Preparing Engineers for the Workplace Through Service Learning: Perceptions of EPICS Alumni
Journal of Engineering Education
Background: Service‐learning programs that emphasize engineering design have been posited to bolster the professional preparedness of engineering alumni. However, we know little about how such programs actually prepare engineers for the workplace. Nor does prior literature fully explain how characteristics of these programs affect professional preparation.
Purpose: This study investigates how alumni perceive the impact of one service‐learning program, Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), in preparing them for the workplace. We seek to provide empirical and theoretical foundations about how this program affected the alumni's perceptions of how they were prepared for professional practice.
Design/Method: This investigation was an embedded, sequential mixed‐methods study, which began by administering a survey to 523 participants. On the basis of survey responses, we interviewed 27 participants and conducted a thematic analysis of transcripts to describe how participants related their EPICS experiences to the workplace.
Results: The findings describe how alumni perceived the role of EPICS in preparing them for the workplace. The thematic analysis reveals how alumni perceived the nature of their preparation through three themes: EPICS was a bridge from education to practice, EPICS provided a means for gaining workplace experience, and EPICS developed a variety of professional skills.
Conclusions: Grounded in alumni perspectives, this study demonstrates a strong link between participating in service‐learning activities and navigating the complexity of the workplace. Finally, we identify three key characteristics of EPICS that are transferable to other institutions.
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Huff, J. L., Zoltowski, C. B., & Oakes, W. C. (2016). Preparing Engineers for the Workplace Through Service Learning: Perceptions of EPICS Alumni. Journal of Engineering Education, 105 (1), 43-69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jee.20107