October 29, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Dr. Harvey Hoffman: The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts outstanding and lucrative career opportunities whether graduates specialize in computer engineering, which emphasizes computer design and development, or computer science, which focuses on computing theory, data analysis, cybersecurity, algorithms, and computer networks.
I could predict that the future trends lay solely in the technologies associated with artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, bioinformatics, embedded systems, and big data, but I would probably be incorrect. The engineering profession faces a whirlwind of technology and social change. It has been said that the half-life of an engineer is about five years, perhaps less. The key to survival is adaptation to a dynamic profession and world. Today's engineers must constantly be aware of technology's changing expectations and learn new skills and competencies.
Newly minted engineers must take ownership of their careers, whether mastering a new computer language or tool or becoming proficient in a totally different discipline. Engineers should consider improving their communication skills to improve interactions with their team, clients, and management. They need to clearly communicate complex ideas and technical project plans. Good writing, listening, and presentation skills are imperative. Today's workforce must take personal initiative to maintain their relevance.
The key to remaining highly employable, successful engineers is to constantly learn, upgrade skills, and constantly adapt to new situations.
University of West Florida
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Thomas Gilbar Ph.D.: Resumes can be tricky things. You want to introduce yourself without overloading the reviewer. Note that this doesn't mean just listing technical skills. I heard from one of our alumni that grammar and misspellings will land a resume into the discard pile almost immediately. I can't emphasize how important it is to proofread resumes and cover letters before submitting them. Keep it neat and easy to follow. It is their first (and possibly only) impression of you, so make it good.
Aside from that, anything that emphasizes your leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills is always a plus. Any examples of seeing a project from beginning to end (including budgeting, planning, and design) are good. From a technical standpoint, being up to date on hot programming languages is pretty much required. Knowledge and comfort with a variety of operating systems are also important. Since we are talking about Computer Engineers and not Computer Scientists, make sure to emphasize hardware/software integration skills. Any experience you have with microcontroller design and applications is a huge plus, and don't leave out knowledge of PLD/FPGA design, programming, and testing.
Dr. Thomas Gilbar Ph.D.: Communication skills, as I mentioned before, are absolutely vital. Note this means not only written but also verbal skills. I have had some excellent students struggle to find a job because their interview and communication skills are lacking. If you are given an opportunity to do a mock interview with the career services department at your University, take it.
Besides that, the soft skills mentioned most often by employers are time and project management. Plan to enthusiastically discuss any projects you worked on from start to finish. If you have no experience, those capstone projects required in just about every engineering program become absolutely vital. Don't skimp just to get it done. Choose a project that you can be proud of and that showcases your abilities. Emphasize any leadership roles you have had and your experience with working on a team.
Don't forget to show that you are willing and able to learn. Computer Engineers work in a very large variety of companies. The chances of your BSCE program covering everything you need are slim to none. Be ready to discuss things that you picked up on your own and emphasize your openness and excitement to learn more.
Dr. Thomas Gilbar Ph.D.: There are quite a few hard/technical skills that are important for Computer Engineers. We've found a lot of managers are looking for comfort in a variety of programming languages, including C++, C#, Java, Python, etc. Also, try to have a background in a variety of operating systems (certainly windows and mac, but also having experience on Apple iOS, Android, and even Linux will give you a leg up on the competition). Having at least some experience in data/cyber security is also important these days. On the hardware side, programming and applying microcontrollers and VHDL/Verilog programming are extremely important. VLSI design is also a nice addition to skill sets, though in most cases, not a deal-breaker. Circuit and electronic design are also very important skills to supplement your microcontroller skills.
Dr. Thomas Gilbar Ph.D.: Selling yourself is absolutely vital. Technical skills are certainly critical to success as a computer engineer, but the employers we work with are also looking for students who are a good "fit" with their organization. Fit differs by organization, so do your research, so you know what they do and what they're looking for before submitting that resume/cover letter and going into an interview. Show that you don't just want any job, but you want this job and what you can bring to their organization and its goals. Most often, your fit will be determined by showcasing soft skills like communication, leadership, critical thinking, professionalism, teamwork, and other related skills. UWF's Office of Career Development & Community Engagement has developed the Argo2Pro Career Readiness Program, which is designed to provide students with vital career readiness skills and assist them in providing evidence to employers that they are both academically prepared and career-ready. Take advantage of these types of programs. They, like most other Universities, also offer mock interviews, resume reviews and even help students review job offers.
University of Washington
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Rania Hussein Ph.D.: Familiarity with embedded systems design and firmware programming. IoT came to the spotlight because of COVID-19 and the need to work on projects remotely. This will likely tend to grow post-pandemic.
Rania Hussein Ph.D.: Being coachable, know how to learn and figure things out, effective communication skills, continuous self-development.
Rania Hussein Ph.D.: C language and hardware description language, such as Verilog, microcontrollers and FPGA programming, computer organization, and low-level programming in assembly.
Rania Hussein Ph.D.: Continuous professional development and working on side projects to learn new technical and marketable skills.
Dr. Nabil Sarhan Ph.D.: It seems that companies will continue to embrace or allow remote work at least for certain jobs, such as those related to software development, computer/system architecture, and VLSI. Therefore, employees may be required to work in geographically distributed teams and should have excellent communication and teamwork skills. In this case of the remote work environment, companies will select future employees primarily based on their skills regardless of their locations, and thus U.S. graduates will likely find themselves in even greater competition against a global workforce.
Dr. Nabil Sarhan Ph.D.: As graduates will find themselves in even greater competition against a global workforce, they will need to differentiate themselves by enhancing their problem-solving, design, communication, and teamwork skills. Graduates can further enhance their job prospects by obtaining graduate degrees. The industry also appreciates certifications and/or courses in AI, machine learning, embedded systems, cloud computing, VLSI, and security, web development, and software engineering. Collaborating in open-source software and having experience in state-of-the-art tools will be appreciated. If none of these is possible, the student should at least invest the time and effort in completing an impressive graduation or capstone project and should do his/her best in the senior course projects as they will demonstrate having the necessary practical experience.
Dr. Nabil Sarhan Ph.D.: The graduates can increase their earning potential by obtaining master's degrees or certificates based on the current market needs. These qualifications are expected to become increasingly more important because of the rising competition in the marketplace.