Soft Skill Competencies for Engineers

Presenter: Clifford A. Whitcomb, Ph.D., professor, Naval Postgraduate School

This presentation provides an overview of engineering soft skill competencies identified in studies of engineering competency models. The soft skill competencies are mostly related to the areas of personal and interpersonal effectiveness that are typically used in the technical workplace. These competencies include, but are not limited to, communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, integrity, professionalism, creative thinking, problem solving, and lifelong learning.

The engineering competency models studied are from the US Department of Labor (DOL), the US Department of Defense (DOD), and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). Verification of this competency model in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures was critical to allow it to be the first systems engineering competency model that can be used with confidence as a basis for “high stakes” human resource functions for the US Department of Defense.

The DOL has an Engineering Competency Model developed by the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) that is intended for use by any commercial or industrial organization interested in developing employee’s engineering competencies.

INCOSE is developing a new systems engineering competency model through their Competency Working Group (CWG). This model is based on the INCOSE UK Competency Model, and includes updated structure and content from various industrial and government organizations represented in the CWG.

This presentation includes an overview of the models, discusses the contents and usage of systems engineering competency models focusing on the soft skill development for engineers, and suggests a structure of “microskills” that can help engineers develop communication and interpersonal skills.

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