In a bid to help nurture talent, hone skills and improve the employability of civil engineering students in the Eastern Cape, one academic at WSU immersed himself in research to find out industry’s expectations regarding the quality of university graduates.


Project Manager for Academic Programme Development (merSETA project) at WSU Dr Ferdie Gerber, who recently obtained his Doctor of Education degree from the University of Fort Hare in October 2018, said his investigation was premised on specifically engineering education.


“My research focused mainly on establishing which competencies civil engineering employers deem as most important in the workplace; investigating the work readiness of our graduates; and determining the extent of the gap between employers’ expectations and the competencies displayed by our graduates,” said Gerber.


In his research, titled under the thesis “Towards a civil engineering diploma curriculum that meets competency requirements of employers within the Eastern Cape”, Gerber aims to bridge the knowledge-practice environment, and in the process improve the employability of civil engineering graduates.


He says he utilized a sequential, mixed-methods research approach for the study wherein data was collected from 546 employers and 570 graduates within the Eastern Cape.


“I plan to continue conducting research within the field of engineering education. I’m particularly interested in undertaking joint research projects with my peers at WSU and through collaborative projects with researchers at other institutions,” said Gerber.


His work has already gained modest recognition within academic circles, with an article emanating from his research having been accepted for publication in a leading DHET-accredited journal.


Gerber intends to use the knowledge and expertise gained from participating in the research study to strengthen the interface between higher education and the world of work.


He says the quantitative and qualitative information collected through his studies have value for a teaching and learning repository such as WSU which offers vocationally orientated programmes.


“The study for WSU’s teaching and learning mandate as it provides comprehensive insight of industry’s views and the nature and extent of competency gaps. Understanding the forms of “knowing” that industry value is useful for my work at WSU in areas of curriculum review and the selection of pedagogic approaches and assessment practices that are best suited for achieving intended outcomes,” concluded Gerber.


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