Top 3 Trends That Engineering Graduates Should Know

The pressure is on for the industry to embrace the digital transformation and keep up with market demands.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

In recent years, the engineering industry has gone through exciting changes and seen ground-breaking developments, such as the rise of automation and the application of intelligent machines.

These developments, combined with Singapore’s plan to transform itself into a Smart Nation, have led to a strong demand in a future-ready engineering workforce and people who are well-versed in new and advanced technology tools that bring business value.

Keeping up with what’s trending in the industry will not only provide graduates with an idea of the job opportunities that these advances have opened up, but also awareness of the skills needed for them to be more employable.

Here are three significant industrial trends graduates should take note of (and impress engineering recruiters with!).

Trend #1: Automation and robotics

The rise of automation and robotics may not be a new trend, but they continue to revolutionise the engineering sector. Robots and machines are displacing workers, dominating workplaces and becoming the true backbone of many companies while humans just manage them on the sidelines.

A notable example of a company that has integrated automation and robotics into their operations is SIA Engineering. Recently, the company deployed air tugs that allow the ground crew to move an aircraft backwards wirelessly and air casters to float heavy objects off the ground. Such devices help ensure that staff welfare is protected, as employees no longer have to perform such strenuous and manual tasks.

Moreover, the use of automated machines and robots are key for fast-growing industries to manufacture products in high quality and quantity in the shortest possible time. This is important for industry stakeholders, as automating labour- intensive processes also leads to significant cuts in manpower costs.

What this means for graduate engineers

Engineers with the technical skills and knowledge in manufacturing technologies and programming are becoming increasingly high in demand. Employers are looking for engineers to design, install, programme, operate and maintain machines and robots used in their operations.

Aside from technical skills, recruiters also seek graduate engineers who are investigative and possess problem-solving abilities. Graduates can showcase these traits to prospective employers during their job application process by reading widely about the issues faced by stakeholders in the industry and explaining how they can contribute in the company’s efforts to solve the problems.

Recruiters also value graduate engineers who possess foresight, as well as the ability to look at the bigger picture of how minute details can affect larger processes. These qualities often indicate a candidate’s potential to continually innovate and come up with new applications of technology to solve problems.

Trend #2: The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The IIoT is a branch of a larger technological development known as the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to connecting devices to the Internet and to each other.

This tech application paves way for ‘smart’ processes, where intelligent devices with independent learning abilities are able to communicate the collected data to one another within an integrated system.

Imagine a world where your smart fridge is able to order groceries for you because it detected that your fresh milk has gone bad. This is how IoT can be used in a consumer setting.

The IIoT, on the other hand, is the application of IoT technologies in the industrial world, where more is at stake because a single mistake can lead to a high revenue loss.

For instance, a company dealing with the shipping of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical drugs can benefit from this technology by using real-time data to read the exact condition that the drugs are exposed to. This allows the company to keep track of whether the goods are exposed to very high or low temperatures.

If the products were in fact under these harsh conditions but were checked only after they have reached the destination, it may be too late to save them and the company may end up losing thousands of dollars’ worth of shipment.

What this means for graduate engineers

The introduction of the IoT technology in the manufacturing industry blurs the line between IT and engineering. Graduate engineers who are seeking employment in the manufacturing industry will need the necessary IT-related skills to remain competitive in the job market.

Following the growing significance of data and automation in the engineering scene, recruiters now highly value technical skills, such as the ability to build machine-learning algorithms as well as AutoCAD (a design software for engineering applications), big data analytics and management skills.

In terms of soft skills, employers seek graduate engineers who are innovative and collaborative. Engineering graduates, who are able to transform ideas into practice or feasible solutions, will attract recruiters from different industries. Employers also value candidates who are collaborative, not just in human-to-human relations, but human-to-machine interactions as well.

Trend #3: Sustainable engineering

Sustainable engineering attempts to bridge social science with civic engineering and environmental science with the technology of the future.

For Singapore, water scarcity is a real challenge. With the nation’s heavy dependence on imported water, occasional political issues between the Singapore and Malaysia governments more often than not lead to veiled threats of the latter cutting off the former’s water supply.

Understanding that this is not a sustainable water solution, the Singapore government commissioned the construction of a superhighway that collects every drop of used water for treatment and re-use. NEWater is the product of this deep tunnel sewerage system. As of 2018, there are five NEWater plants supplying up to 40 percent of Singapore’s current water needs.

More can still be done in order to encourage sustainability and self-sufficiency, and this is where engineers can make a difference. With energy efficiency, a particularly pressing concern in the region due to expanding economies and growing populations, the Singapore government is also targeting a 35 percent improvement in energy efficiency and reduction in carbon emission from the 2005 level by 2030. There is simply no shortage of roles for graduate engineers today.

What this means for graduate engineers

Given how sustainability is a key consideration for most if not all engineering companies, employers do expect graduate engineers to have an understanding of industrial regulations and ethical codes. In addition, read, research and understand about other technologies and sustainability initiatives introduced in other companies and countries. Find out how you can use these existing solutions and tailor them accordingly to add value to the company that you’re working with.

You should also be commercially aware, as economic feasibility of engineering processes plays a big role in the overall picture of sustainability as well. Take the initiative to attend networking events or employer talks to get an insider’s insight and opinion on the sustainability issues faced by industry players.

Be ready to make sustainability the key objective in your job. If saving the environment is your calling, this is the engineering focus for you.