Identifying motivational factors to increase the selection of a career in the engineering profession

Evan Madden
8 March 2022

Madden, E. (2022). Identifying motivational factors to increase the selection of a career in the engineering profession. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand).   https://doi.org/10.34074/thes.5686

Abstract

The shortage of skilled workers, specifically engineers, in New Zealand is well published (Freeman-Greene, 2020). To recruit the best talent into engineering careers and address the increasing shortfall of highly skilled workers across the industry, my enquiry explores the influences, needs and motivators specific or unique to engineering careers. Identification of these factors in career selection, aims to increase workforce capability and develop engineering as a sustainable vocation.

Through my constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2014) enquiry, I seek to discover what specifically influences subsequent career decisions, and consider what prior learning experiences may provoke that initial interest in engineering careers. Additionally, I have uncovered the motivations necessary for engineering to be considered as an enduring career choice. I delve into the cause-and-effect relationship that supports the development of relatable learning experiences from the cultivation of formative interests. These learning experiences are critical in career decision making and the core category of my analysis.

The framework I have developed is supported by applied psychological motivation theories, particularly social cognitive career theory (Lent et al., 2002). This process enables the evaluation of specific and unique influences and motivations, supporting consequent behaviours and career decisions. Career potential, hobbies, interests, and previous experiential learning are examples of causal factors that can enhance this motivational effect leading to a career selection. Further details of these exclusive parameters as they relate to engineering careers are provided.

The requisite pathway to reach the start line of a professional engineering career at university, is precarious. The contemporary educational philosophy has a profound impact upon engineering careers. It systematically prioritises the advancement of our elite talent into further academic development (Lum, 2009). As I have experienced, and for the majority, the opportunity to reach the start line will only happen once in a lifetime. These conditions and others emphasise the critical intersection that occurs when determining to pursue either an academic or vocational engineering pathway.

Built upon an individual’s learning experiences, a comprehensive model outlining contemporary engineering career management is established. This model considers the individuals, unique set of circumstances that leads to and maintains an engineering career. The cultural, cognitive, and contextual influences of social cognitive career theory (Lent et al., 2002) are a central feature. Further context is provided charting progress through associated professional and educational levels.

A comprehensive analysis and results and are shared, along with recommendations for implementation and opportunities for further work in this area.

Keywords: career decision making self-efficacy, engineering careers

Evan's academic mentor was David Woodward.

Licence

This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

Creative Commons License