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Career assessment tools add to sustainability of the profession by determining students’ aptitude for engineering. (ISTOCKPHOTO.COM)
Career assessment tools add to sustainability of the profession by determining students’ aptitude for engineering. (ISTOCKPHOTO.COM)

A Special Information Feature

Online assessment helps students determine suitability for engineering career Add to ...

Breanna Borys is someone with firm ideas about the future.

Just finishing her third year of chemical engineering with a specialty in biomedical engineering at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, Ms. Borys, 21, would like to work in the area of tissue and organ regeneration. An avid athlete, she especially wants to help young people recover from burns or injuries.

Back in high school, however, she was “really unsure” of her career path. Although she was a bright student who excelled in math and science, engineering wasn’t in her plans. “I didn’t want to work in the oil field and I didn’t want to build bridges,” she recalls her stereotypical views at the time, adding that the school’s guidance office offered little help.

Her mother, a computer scientist, encouraged Ms. Borys to look into engineering nonetheless. When she started to do some research, the “cool options” for specializations such as biomedical engineering drew her to the field.

Now a career assessment tool being developed by Engineers Canada has confirmed Ms. Borys’s aptitude for chemical engineering and biomedicine. She is among a group of students who are helping to test the CareerFocus powered by the Pathfinder Career System, an online assessment survey designed to help high school and first-year university students determine whether they are suited for engineering.

“We want to support the sustainability of the profession by seeing more people going into engineering, and ensuring that it’s right for them,” says Glenn Martin, acting practice lead for outreach at Engineers Canada, who is managing the project.

CareerFocus is available to students for a $75 fee. The assessment tool generates a report that predicts, with 90 per cent accuracy, their performance in engineering, based on a range of competencies and traits. Students then have the option of having a one-on-one consultation with a certified career counsellor, for an additional $100 fee.

“It’s a way to help students and their parents know they are going in the right direction,” says Ms. Martin, noting that CareerFocus is the only assessment tool that measures behavioural attributes rather than only interests or personality traits, which is important for engineering.

“Behavioural performance is a dominant factor in achieving success in a chosen career,” explains Paul Frederick, a human resources consultant working on the CareerFocus program. He expects the assessment tool will help students and their parents get a true reading of their competencies in engineering. “There’s a major need for it out there.”

Engineers Canada is developing a second phase of the assessment tool for master’s students. A third phase will target people already in the profession, for example, who might be considering new practice areas.

Ms. Borys says she’s interested in taking those surveys when they are available. For now, she plans to get a master’s degree and perhaps a PhD in chemical or biomedical engineering, and to eventually become a researcher and academic.

“I can’t imagine being anything but an engineer,” she adds.

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